The team is hired by a hotel owner being harassed by a family of bullies. But the more they investigate the more it appears that there are much more sinister things happening in the town.

Content warning: Racial slurs.

Rating: PG13

Words: 26,900

Chapter 1

“Coffee, guys?” Hannibal offered from behind the counter of the diner.

“Coffee? Sure. It’s nearly one a.m., it’s not like I was planning on sleeping or anything tonight.” Face replied. Hannibal ignored the sarcastic tone and poured two cups of coffee. He took them to where BA and Face were sitting at a table. Then he grabbed a broom and started sweeping up. The lights were turned off except over the table where Face and BA were sitting. Anyone looking through the windows would see a diner closing down for the night. Two late customers and a man in an apron sweeping the floor.

“You got the information on the client?” Hannibal asked, moving the dust around with his broom.

“Yeah.” Face said, opening a folder on the table. “Michael Harper, born 1947, in Sacramento. Grew up in a state home till age ten, when he was adopted.” He frowned a little. “His records get a little sketchy after that, seems to have moved around a lot. Went to lots of different schools. Never served in the military. In fact wasn’t even in the draft, which you have to wonder about.” BA scowled at that.

“Medical grounds.” Hannibal said. Face looked at him curiously.

“What? Is Mr Lee taking a medical history now too?” Face asked. Hannibal wasn’t forthcoming with any more information so Face went on. “Married in 1968, one kid, born 1970. Wife died a year ago.”

“Nice thorough job, Face.” Hannibal said.

“I’m not done.” Face said. “Six months ago bought a hotel in Lucasville, out near Bridgeport.” The other two were looking at him expectantly. “Er, that’s it.” Face said.

“No sign of any connection to law enforcement?” Hannibal asked.

Face shook his head. “Nothing, no police, or FBI. There’s a few gaps in his history I’m not too happy about, but I think he’s clean.”

“So does Mr Lee.” Hannibal said. He smiled as he saw the look Face and BA exchanged. They always gave each other that ‘he’s losing it’ look when he referred to Mr Lee in the third person. “Okay, he should be here in about five minutes.” Hannibal said, checking his watch. “BA, go out back and check for any sign of Lynch.”

“Right.” BA went to check the rear. Hannibal moved back behind the counter. Face sat at the table looking casual, but watching the door through the mirror behind the counter. At exactly ten past one the door opened. Face frowned. The door closed again, but he hadn’t seen anyone come in. He heard footsteps on the linoleum floor.

“Mr Harper?” Hannibal said. Face twisted in his chair and saw that the man who had come in was less than four feet tall. Harper stopped in his tracks when Hannibal addressed him by name.

“You know who I am?” He asked.

“Who sent you here?” Hannibal asked in return.

“Mr Lee,” Harper replied. He glanced over at Face, looking rather nervous. “He said to tell you the password is ‘swordfish’.”

Face rolled his eyes. “Swordfish? Hannibal, have you been watching Marx Brothers’ movies with Murdock again?”

“Hannibal?” Harper said, “You really are the A-Team?”

“In the flesh.” Hannibal said. “I’m Hannibal Smith. This…” he waved a hand at Face “…is Templeton Peck.” Harper went towards the table, offering his hand to Face. Face felt slightly flustered as Harper approached him. His instinct was to stand up, but he would feel awkward towering over the small man. On the other hand it seemed like bad manners to shake hands while sitting down. He made the decision and stood up, shook the small hand that was offered and then sat down again quickly.

“BA, anything out back?” Hannibal asked over his walkie-talkie.

“Nothing.” BA’s voice crackled over the radio.

“Okay, come on in.”

Hannibal poured two more cups of coffee and brought them to the table, put them down.

“Good to meet you, Mr Harper,” he said, shaking hands, with none of the awkwardness Face had displayed. BA came in from the back. “This is BA Baracus,” Hannibal said. “BA, Michael Harper.” BA stared with surprise for a moment, and then controlled his reaction.

“Uh, pleased to meet you, Mr Harper,” BA said, bending down slightly to shake hands.

“Please, call me Mike,” Harper said. He hadn’t displayed any of the usual surprise people did when meeting BA. The sergeant’s feathered earrings, gold jewellery and somewhat bizarre haircut seemed to make no impression on him.

“Sit down, Mike.” Hannibal said. “Have some coffee and tell us what we can do for you.”

They sat around the table. Face had another awkward moment as Mike got onto the seat next to him, wondering if he should help him up.

“You explained to Mr Lee that you’re having a problem with your hotel.” Hannibal prompted.

“Yes.” Mike said. “As soon as I moved into town I started getting harassment. Mainly from three brothers and their cronies. The Heinemann brothers.”

“What’s their beef?” BA asked.

“Well, I’ve been told that a friend of theirs was hoping to buy the hotel. I guess I put in a higher bid. So maybe they want me out so he can buy it.” He shrugged. “Or maybe it’s just because I’m different. I’ve met plenty of jerks who don’t need any more reason than that to have a go.”

Hannibal nodded. “The hotel isn’t open yet, right?”

“No,” Mike confirmed. “The place is pretty run down, needs a lot of work.” He put down the coffee cup. “And the Heinemann brothers are trying to make sure that I can’t get that work done. Anybody I want to hire in the town, carpenters, decorators, whoever, is told not to work for me. I have to bring in firms from the next town, even the next county. And this is before I even start trying to hire staff for the place once it opens.”

“What about the law?” Face asked. “Can’t the Sheriff help you?”

“Guess what the Sheriff’s name is,” Mike said.

“Ah,” Face nodded.

“He’s their cousin. The Heinemann family pretty much run the whole town.”

“Sounds familiar.” Face said.

“I’ve tried to resolve things with them. I even went to speak to their mother, see if I could appeal to her to get them to leave me in peace. She seemed like a nice old lady, she said she’d do what she could, but it hasn’t helped.”

“Sounds like these guys need a lesson in being good neighbours.” Hannibal said.

“Yeah.” BA said. “A real hard lesson.” He slapped one fist into the palm of the other hand. Mike looked at him a little nervously.

“I never wanted it to come to this.” He said. “I’ve always tried to teach my son that it’s wrong to use violence to solve your problems. Though…” he gave a wry smile. “That does contradict my own experience, that some people are very much improved by the application of a good kicking.”

Face choked on the coffee he was drinking and Hannibal grinned.

“Yeah, that’s been our experience too,” he said.

“So that’s why I’ve come to you. I can’t fight these men, but I don’t want to give up the hotel. It’s a good location, it could do really well.”

“Speaking of that,” Face said, there’s the sma… the matter of payment.”

“I have some cash.” Mike said. “And I’ve heard that in the past you’ve taken a cut of your client’s business profits as payment too. Could we work out something like that?”

“Well…” Face began.

“Yeah.” BA said, firmly. “That sounds fine.”

“BA…” Hannibal began.

“I said, that sounds fine.” BA repeated glowering at Hannibal and Face.

“Okay. We’ll work out the fine details later.” Hannibal said. “Don’t worry, Mike, we won’t rip you off.”

“So you’ll do it?” Mike said, smiling.

“Yeah,” BA said. “You just hired the A-Team.”


“And what if the hotel isn’t a success, BA?” Face asked from his seat in the van. “If the place goes under we’re left with ten percent of nothing.”

“Don’t matter. We gonna help the little guy.” BA said. Hannibal glanced over at the fierce scowl on BA’s face.

BA was driving Hannibal and Face home. Hannibal had told Mike to head on back to Lucasville and that they’d meet him there within forty-eight hours.

Face gave a scowl to match BA’s. He seemed to forget about the money issue as he thought about the case.

“Well I for one can’t wait to get my hands on those creeps.” He said. “Think they’re tough, picking on a guy who’s three and a half feet tall. Yeah, real tough.” He sneered the last part.

“They gonna get a lesson in pickin’ on someone they own size.” BA growled.

“Face,” Hannibal said. “Get Murdock out of the VA in the morning. Then we’ll pick up supplies and head out.”

“Aw, man.” BA said. “Not the fool. Why do we need the fool? We ain’t flyin’.”

“Well you never know, BA. I mean it’s amazing how often a helicopter turns up when we happen to have Murdock with us…”


“A bone marrow donation?” The VA nurse asked. Face, in a white doctor’s coat, stood at the nurse’s station as she checked the forged transfer papers. She frowned. “Again? This is the sixth time.”

“Inspiring isn’t it?” Face said, “the selflessness of the man. He has so many problems of his own yet he’s prepared to give of his very essence to help others. It’s quite humbling to contemplate.” He wondered if that was a bit rich, but she seemed to like it when he garnished it with a smile.

“Well Murdock is a nice guy.” The nurse said. “It’s this way.” She led Face, who was pushing a wheelchair, towards Murdock’s room. “Isn’t it rather unusual that he’s a match for so many unrelated people?”

“Very,” Face said. “It’s a phenomenon. He’s a medical miracle. In fact they’re going to write up a study of him in the New England Journal of Medicine.”

“Really?” She was still eating it up with a spoon. Face felt sure when Murdock came back he was going to be her favourite patient for a while. Murdock was ready when they arrived, as Face had called him earlier. He had his suitcase all packed and got into the wheelchair, put the case across his knees. He took out a small plastic tub of liquid and unscrewed the lid. It was a child’s bubble mix. He started to blow soap bubbles.

“I can’t believe I’m gonna meet the bubble boy.” Murdock said.

“Bubble boy?” The nurse asked.

“Yes, that’s who’s getting Mr Murdock’s bone marrow. Surely you saw the piece in Life?” Murdock blew more bubbles; Face waved one away from his nose. “Not those sort of bubbles, Mr Murdock.” He said, in a slightly too loud, patronising voice. “Yes, that boy will have a whole new life thanks to him.” He patted Murdock’s shoulder. They were at the elevator now. Face glanced around slightly nervously. Getting off the floor was always the most nerve-wracking part of these capers. After that it was usually plain sailing. The elevator doors opened and Face wheeled Murdock inside.

“He should be back in about two weeks,” Face said. “He’ll need plenty of rest and good food.”

“Oh, he’ll have anything he wants.” The nurse said reassuringly.

“Thank you, nurse.” Face said as the door closed.

Murdock glanced up at Face and waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Think she meant that part about ‘anything he wants’?”


The van was in the VA parking lot and Face and Murdock got aboard. Murdock stashed his suitcase in the back.

“How’d you get him out this time?” Hannibal asked.

“He’s giving a bone marrow donation.” Face said.

“Again?” Hannibal asked. “How many times is that? They’re gonna catch on, Face.”

“Yeah,” Murdock said. “I can’t have more than an egg cup worth of the stuff left. It’s no wonder Billy doesn’t even try to chew my leg any more.”

“Ain’t no dog,” BA muttered, in an almost Pavlovian reaction to the mention of Billy.

“Murdock, don’t talk nonsense,” Face said. “For one thing you don’t run out of bone marrow. And for another, you haven’t actually given any bone marrow anyway.”

“So what’s your point, Face?” Murdock asked.

“Well there must be another reason why Billy won’t chew your leg. Have you started using different soap lately?” Murdock at once looked very thoughtful. BA looked very irritated.

“Ain’t no dog, Face. You as crazy as he is.” He drove on for a while, and then snapped, “And quit blowing bubbles in my van, fool!”

Chapter 2

“This case presents several points of interest,” Murdock said, in a distinctly English accent. Face and Hannibal turned to look at him. He was reading the background details Face had gathered, using a large magnifying glass.

“Are you having a problem with your eyes, Murdock?” Hannibal asked. They were nearing Lucasville now, after a long drive during which Murdock had been unusually quiet.

“No, merely observing.” Murdock said, “I see you changed pens part way through this report, Face, the ink is slightly darker and denser towards the end of the page.”

“Er, yeah, the pen ran out,” Face said. Murdock nodded sagely. Hannibal looked at the two paperback books Murdock had read so far on the trip and discarded on the floor of the van. One was The Sign of Four, the other The Hound of the Baskervilles. Hannibal grinned.

“There was a series of Sherlock Holmes movies on the Late Late Show this past week, wasn’t there?” Hannibal said.

“Oh no.” Face said. “And I’ll bet I can guess who stayed up late late to watch them.”

Murdock took a pipe out of his pocket. “An excellent deduction, my dear Faceman,” he said.

“You ain’t smoking no pipe in my van.” BA protested. “Cigars is bad enough,” he added, glaring at Hannibal.

“Oh this is great,” Face complained. “I’ve dreaded this one for years. You know he has all the books, don’t you? It was only a matter of time.”

“I dunno, Face,” Hannibal said. “Seems like it might be fun.” Murdock was currently closely examining Face’s watch with his magnifying glass.

“Well, I’m not playing Dr Watson to his Holmes. You got that, Murdock?”

Murdock smiled reassuringly at him. “I think of you more as ‘the noble bachelor’, Face.”

“Stroke of luck really,” Hannibal said. “To have Sherlock Holmes on our side. Those Heinemann brothers really don’t stand a chance against the combined efforts of the A-Team and the Great Detective.”

“Hannibal don’t do it,” Face moaned.

“Great detective?” BA snorted. “Great defective more like.” Murdock rummaged in his suitcase and took out a copy of A Study in Scarlet. He settled down to read, the empty pipe in his mouth.


They approached Lucasville via a back road that took them straight towards Mike’s hotel, which stood part way up a hill, overlooking the town. A winding road led down through woodland into the town, which was nestled in a valley. On the slopes of the hills around the town there were a few isolated houses of various sizes. One large one stood almost directly opposite the hotel on the other side of the valley.

“Nice looking town.” Hannibal said.

“Looks kind of quiet,” Face said, dubiously.

“Lots of good fishing and hunting in the area and handy for Yosemite National Park.” Hannibal said. “Good location for a family hotel.” Face didn’t look convinced.

“No golf course,” he muttered.

They drove through the gates and up to the hotel, which was a three storey, grey stone building laid out in an L-shape. The signs of building and decorating work going on were evident from the neatly stacked piles of materials outside.

BA honked the horn as they got out and started unpacking their gear. In a moment Mike appeared, dressed in a check shirt and jeans. He looked a little dusty, had clearly been working somewhere inside.

“Hi, Mike,” Hannibal said. “Nice hotel.”

“Be better when it’s finished. If it ever is.” Mike said. “Come on inside, let me get you some food.”

“Hello, Mr Harper.” Murdock said, “I am Mr Sherlock Holmes, currently assisting the A-Team on this case. Pleased to meet you.” He shook Mike’s hand.

“Sherlock Holmes?” Mike looked at Murdock with understandable confusion.

“Quit messing around, fool.” BA said. “He’s Murdock. He’s crazy. Don’t ask me why we keep bringin’ him along.” He went on into the hotel carrying their bags and muttering to himself. Murdock grinned at the now very puzzled client.

“Yeah, I’m Murdock. Some of the time anyway.” He followed BA into the building. Mike looked at Hannibal.

“It’s okay, Murdock is part of the team. Don’t worry about some of the stuff he says, he just has, ah, a very active fantasy life. But he’s fine.”

“Right.” Mike said, still sounding dubious. Hannibal and Face went into the hotel with him. They left their luggage in the lobby and went on through the building. They turned the corner of the L away from the bedrooms and into a large function room. It had a partially built bar at one end.

“I’m having a small stage put in at the far end,” Mike said, pointing it out. “I’ll be hiring the room out for weddings and parties.” Face went to the dance floor and bounced on his feet a little. The rest of the team looked at him strangely. “I know it needs re-sprung.” Mike said. “Maybe even replaced.”

Face nodded. “Good size though.”

Hannibal smiled to himself. Face was clearly taking a personal interest in the success of the place now they were going to have a percentage interest. At the far end of the room they went on through into the kitchen. The large, industrial kitchen, all brushed stainless steel was mostly installed but still untouched. A small corner was currently in use. Mike had a small step stool in front of the worktop, stepped up it and started making sandwiches for the team. Murdock put on a pot of coffee.

“Anything happened since we spoke last?” Hannibal asked.

“No, it’s been quiet the last few days,” Mike said. “I’ve got some building workers in from the next town over just now, working on the bedrooms. The Heinemann’s haven’t come sniffing around for a couple of days.”

They went back out to the lobby area with their food and Mike and Face were soon deep in a conversation about Mike’s plans for the hotel.

“BA,” Hannibal said. “We’ll set up a command post on the top floor in one of the front rooms. That will give us a good view of the approach road and down into the town.”

“Yeah.” BA said. “I got a tripod in the van for the binoculars.”

“Hey guys,” Face said. “What do you think the name ‘Valley View Hotel’?”

“Hmm, kind of generic.” Hannibal said. He turned back to BA. “We’ll set up four hour watches. I want to spot these guys arriving and be ready for them.”

“Is this the A-Team then?”

They all turned to see a boy of about fourteen had come down the stairs into the lobby, carrying a skateboard. He had large brown eyes and thick wavy dark brown hair and was wearing battered sneakers, jeans and a t-shirt.

“Yes,” Mike said, “This is them, Mr Smith, Mr Baracus, Mr Peck and Mr Murdock. This is my son, David.” David looked at the team with the kind of massively unimpressed expression that only a teenager could manage. Even BA’s unusual appearance didn’t seem to give him pause. They all said hello to the boy.

“Right, hi.” He said, and then turned to his father. “Can I go into town?”

“What for?” Mike asked.

“Nothing.” David said, shrugging, “Just to hang. Geez, Dad, does there have to be a big reason for everything?”

“Alright, but be back well before seven for dinner.”

“Right.” He turned towards the door, giving the A-Team another unenthusiastic look. They watched him put his board down outside and ride off down the drive. Mike was looking a little embarrassed.

“Sorry. He wasn’t brought up to be that rude, I promise you.”

“Teenagers,” said Hannibal, trying to sound like he knew what he was talking about. “Good looking kid though.”

“He would be if he’d comb his hair, stand up straight and smile now and again.” Mike said. Then he smiled a little himself. “Yeah, he is. Takes after his mother,” he admitted. His own hair was light brown and his eyes blue, in contrast to David’s dark looks.

“Okay, guys,” Hannibal said, seeing they’d all finished their sandwiches. “Let’s do a full recon of the place and set up the command post.”


It was just after six in the evening. Face and Murdock were manning the command post they’d set up. Face was scanning the town below with binoculars, then the houses on the hills around the town.

“Some nice looking houses.” Face said. “Must be worth plenty.”

“Hmm,” Murdock wasn’t paying much attention, was using his magnifying glass to examine Face’s tie.

“Will you knock that off,” Face said, pulling it away from him. “Check out these houses.” He sighed. “Sometimes I think I’d like to live in a small town like this. Peaceful. Friendly.”

“Not so friendly according to Mike,” Murdock said, straightening up. He took over the glasses from Face and scanned the area. “Anyway, you’re a city boy, Face, you’d hate it here after about a week. Besides…” he slipped into the English accent, “… It is my belief, Faceman, founded upon my experience that the lowest and vilest alleys of LA do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

“More Holmes?” Face asked.

“Paraphrasing.” Murdock confirmed. “Uh-oh.” He went serious suddenly. “The law. And I doubt it’s my good friend Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard.” Face looked out of the window to see a Sheriff’s department car approaching up the drive.

“Wonder if it’s the Sheriff himself? The cousin?” Face said.

“We’ll find out in about five minutes.”

Murdock radioed Hannibal who told him to come to the lobby, leaving Face on watch. Murdock met Hannibal, BA and Mike there.

“Murdock you stay with Mike. We’ll stay out of sight unless you need us.”

“Roger, Colonel,” Murdock said. Hannibal and BA took positions, just in time as the Sheriff came to the door, which was open. Walking in front of him was David, carrying his skateboard and looking even surlier than before. The Sheriff was tall and had a dull, slow, somewhat bovine expression in his eyes.

“Harper.” The Sheriff said, “I brought your kid home. He was causing trouble down in town.” Mike looked shocked and then furious.


“I wasn’t causing trouble,” David protested. “Since when is just talking to people causing trouble?”

“He was stirring it with my cousin Jed’s kids. Looked like it was turning nasty.”

“They started it.” David pulled away from the Sheriff who had a hand on his shoulder.

“You gotta keep that kid under control.” The Sheriff said. “We don’t like trouble makers in this town.”

“I wasn’t…” David began.

“Go to your room, David.” Mike said tensely.

“But, Dad…”

“Now!” Mike snapped. David shut up. He cast a resentful scowl at the Sheriff and left, going up the stairs. Once he was out of earshot Mike turned to the Sheriff, who was currently eyeing Murdock suspiciously. Murdock was eyeballing him back, with one of his best quietly unhinged looks.

“I’m sorry for the trouble, Sheriff Heinemann,” Mike said with a sort of frozen politeness.

“This ain’t the first time it’s happened. That kid needs some discipline. I guess he never got that with the upbringing he had.”

“He got plenty of discipline,” Mike said, hotly.

“Yeah? Well it don’t show.” He looked at Murdock again. “Who’s this?”

“A friend of mine,” Mike said.

“From the circus?” Heinemann asked. Murdock raised his eyebrows.

“No,” Mike snapped.

“Oh. You know maybe you and your kid should go back there. Seems like you don’t fit in around normal folk. Probably better if you’d stayed with your own kind.”

“David is normal!” Mike said angrily and Murdock decided it was time to intervene.

“Sheriff, you laying any charges against the boy?” He asked.

“Not this time.” The Sheriff said. Which Murdock figured meant he had nothing to charge him with.

“Then we’re pretty busy,” Murdock said. “Need to get back to work.”

“Yeah.” The Sheriff didn’t look like he was in any hurry to move. He was looking around the place with a slow stare. “Work don’t seem to be progressing very fast does it? Maybe you took on too much, Harper.”

“I’m managing.” Mike said. “I’ll get there.”

“Little by little, huh?” Heinemann laughed, but Mike and Murdock just glared at him. He pushed back his hat, which he hadn’t taken off when he came in. “You straighten that kid out.” He said, and then turned to walk out.

When they heard his car pulling away Hannibal and BA moved back into sight.

“That guy need to learn some manners,” BA growled dangerously.

“The circus, Mike?” Hannibal said.

Mike, who had been looking down at the floor, simmering with anger, looked up at Hannibal a little surprised.

“Yes, that’s where I lived until I moved here. Didn’t you do a background check on me? You said you had.”

“Yes, we did,” Hannibal said. Into his walkie-talkie he said, “Face, you want to come down here to the lobby?” He turned back to Mike. “Tell me more, Mr Harper.”

Mike frowned a little. “Nothing much to tell. I was adopted by circus people when I was a kid. Did various jobs, tumbling, clowning.”

“Why did you leave?” Murdock asked, intrigued by the idea of a man who ran away from the circus to open a hotel.

“Wasn’t really my dream,” Mike said, with a shrug. “I think it either has to be your dream, or you have to be born to it. And we wanted David to have a more settled life, not travelling all over the country. We wanted him to get a proper education.”

“You and your wife, you mean?” Hannibal said.

“Yes.” Mike looked down, sadly. “We’d been planning this for a few years. Raising the money, taking correspondence courses in hotel management. This was our dream. When she died I almost gave up on the whole thing.” There was silence for a few moments.

“What’s up, guys?” Face said, coming down the stairs into the lobby.

Mike looked up again. “I’d better go talk to Davie,” he said, and then smiled a little wryly. “David, I mean. He sulks if I call him Davie now.” He went off to his living quarters, nodding an acknowledgment to Face as he passed.

Face came over to the team. Hannibal put an arm around his shoulders.

“Lieutenant, do you know what an elephant looks like?”

“Huh?” Face said. Murdock grinned and BA smirked.

“An elephant, you know what one looks like?”

“Of course I know what an elephant looks like.” Face said, irritated and baffled.

“You’re sure? There’s not a possibility that you could, say, miss it if it you were in a room with one?”

“What the hell are you talking about Hannibal?”

“You know when I said ‘nice thorough job’ on the background check? I take it back.”

Chapter 3

Dinner was a somewhat quiet and tense affair. The only person who didn’t mind that was BA who had never seen the sense in mixing food and conversation anyway.

When coffee was served David asked if he could be excused and went to his room. Mike watched him leave then watched the door that closed behind him. Eventually he turned back to the others with a sigh.

“Sorry,” he said. “You didn’t come here to have to put up with my domestic troubles.”

“It can’t be easy, bringing up a kid on your own.” Hannibal said.

“It’s not easy for him either.” Mike said, “Having a dad who looks like me I mean.” No one could think of an answer to that one. “And it’s only going to get harder. Once he starts bringing girls home I mean.” He shook his head.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about that,” Hannibal said, “I think the main problem that kid is likely to have with girls is crowd control.” He was rewarded with a smile from the client. “Perhaps Face can give him some advice?” He grinned at the Lieutenant who gave him an ironic smile in return.

“Like I said, he gets his looks from his mother.” Mike glanced over at a family portrait on the wall. His late wife was a pretty woman, with a gentle smile, thick black hair and the same dark eyes as David. “Now Elena, she was born to the circus life, her family had been show people in Europe for generations. She was a trapeze artist.”

“Is that how she died?” Murdock asked. “An accident?”

“Oh no, nothing like that.” Mike said, “No, she had a brain haemorrhage. Just sitting sewing one day, she blacked out and…” He stopped, looking down. “Davie misses her.”

Hannibal glanced around at the rest of the team, who all had wistful expressions; perhaps remembering loved ones they missed. He cleared his throat.

“Let’s get cleared up and post a guard for the night,” he said. “I get the feeling we may have some late night visitors.”


Hannibal was right. It was almost one in the morning when they heard the distant roar of an engine.

“Colonel, the game is afoot.” Murdock reported from the command post.

“Okay, get down here and get into position.” Hannibal ordered.

A few minutes later Hannibal was standing outside the front door, apparently lounging casually, smoking a cigar. A dark red pickup came up the drive fast and screeched to a halt. It was a new truck, that year’s model, Hannibal observed, very shiny and tricked out with plenty of unnecessary extra lights and bull bars. Three men were in the cab, half a dozen more in the back. Hannibal guessed the Heinemann brothers were the ones up front.

As the men got out of the truck, the one who had been driving growled “Watch the chrome, you jackasses!” at the men getting out of the back. That must be Jed, the oldest brother, Hannibal thought. Tall and bulky and sandy haired, he possessed a certain natural authority. Hannibal could see right away he was a man used to getting his own way. Things were about to change for Jed.

The men were rowdy and clearly the worse for drink. They didn’t notice Hannibal at first as they approached the door. When he stepped out of the shadows they stopped abruptly.

“Hey there, neighbours,” Hannibal said, “I’m afraid our bar isn’t open yet, come back in a couple of months.”

“What? Where’s Harper?” Jed demanded.

Hannibal gave what he hoped was an infuriating smile. “Anything you want to say to Mr Harper you can say to me.”

“Oh yeah?” Jed asked, “Who are you then, the ringmaster?” His brothers and their friends sniggered. “I wanna see the midget right now. I’ve told him already to keep his brat away from my daughter.”

“Kids,” Hannibal said, “You can’t tell them anything these days.”

“Well I’ll tell him alright. Thrash it into the brat if I have to.”

“No, you won’t.” Hannibal’s voice went hard. “You’ll get out of here now and you won’t come back.” This was greeted with derisive laughter from the other men, but not Jed. His eyes were locked on Hannibal’s.

“Aaron,” he said to one of his brothers, “get the shotgun.” Aaron moved back towards the truck. Hannibal showed no reaction to the threat.

“He doesn’t seem to get it, Jed,” the other brother said.

“He’ll get it okay in a minute, Zeke,” Jed said, still looking at Hannibal. “If he doesn’t send out the hobbit.”

“Hey, sounds like we’ve found the intellectual of the group.” The thugs whirled at the sound of a voice from their left. Face stood on top of a stack of building materials, holding a machine gun on the group.

“Indeed, it seems this fellow may have actually read a book.” This voice came from their right. Murdock was on another stack, similarly armed and speaking in an English accent.

“That’s called a flanking manoeuvre, Jed,” Hannibal told him. “And I didn’t learn that in any circus.” A couple of the men started to back up towards the truck. Aaron was standing near it with the shotgun, looking nervous. “Put that down, pal.” Hannibal told him. Aaron hesitated.

“He said put it down, sucker.” BA appeared from behind the truck, pointing his rifle straight at Aaron. Aaron’s eyes went huge at the sight of him and he dropped the shotgun carelessly, put his hands up.

“And that’s called being surrounded.” Hannibal said. “Now, we don’t want any trouble, this is a respectable hotel. So I suggest you leave quietly.”

“This ain’t over,” Jed snarled as his group started to move towards the truck. “We don’t want that little freak in this town.”

“Yeah, how dare he come here offering work and bringing money into the town. Who does he think he is?” Face’s voice was massively sarcastic.

“Colonel,” Murdock called, still in his Holmes persona, “My powers of observation lead me to deduce that these men are intoxicated.” Hannibal saw the glint in the captain’s eye as he cocked his head slightly at the truck and he got what Murdock was suggesting at once.

“You’re right, Holmes.” Hannibal said. “Hand over the keys, Jed.” Jed stared at him.

“You’re kidding. You ain’t getting this truck.”

“Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Hannibal said. “I’d never forgive myself if you had an accident. Or got picked up by the sheriff.” He grinned. “Though that’s not very likely, now is it?” Jed was scowling and making no move to obey.

BA let loose a blast from his rifle over their heads.

“Man asked you for the keys! Do it!” Some of the men hit the dirt; the others ducked and quailed in terror. Jed flung the keys down at Hannibal’s feet.

“Good decision, Jed.” Hannibal said. “We’ll return it in the morning.”

“If there’s so much as a scratch on it…” Jed was still angry and threatening and Hannibal was quite impressed. Most men would be grovelling for mercy by now.

“That pretty thing? I’ll treat her like the lady she is,” Hannibal promised. “Well it’s late, I hate to break up the party, but …” He nodded down the driveway.

“He means move it!” BA snapped. The men, subdued now and grumbling started off slowly down the driveway. Jed followed. At one point he turned to glare back at Hannibal who waved to him in a friendly fashion.

“You tell him, you tell Harper to keep his kid away from my daughter.” Jed yelled.

“Well, I’ll pass it on, but I can’t promise anything,” Hannibal called back. Jed growled and turned away following his friends. Once they were all out of sight the rest of the team joined Hannibal.

“Those guys were real nasty, Hannibal.” Murdock said, back to his own personality for now. “Drunk, armed. If we hadn’t been here…”

“And they’ll be back,” said Face. He grinned, “David’s messing with the guy’s daughter, you’re messing with his truck. All we need now is to do something to his mother and we’ve got the hat-trick.”

“I’ll have to see what I can come up with,” Hannibal said. They went inside. Mike and David were in the lobby and must have heard what had been said outside, because Mike was talking very fast and angrily at David, the word ‘daughter’ coming up pretty frequently.

“I was just talking to Debbie about school,” the boy protested, when he could get a word in. “Is there a law against that now?”

“You know the trouble I’m having, are you trying to make it worse? Do you ever stop to think?” Mike shut up as the team came in. “Go back to bed,” he ordered David. “We’ll talk tomorrow, after church.”

The boy ran off upstairs, Mike, looking weary turned to Hannibal.

“Thank you, Colonel.” He said.

“Hope we didn’t scare the kid with the gunfire.” Hannibal said.

“No, I’d already started yelling at him by then, so I’m not sure he noticed it.” Mike said, wryly. Hannibal grinned.

“Okay, fellas, I’m taking first watch, the rest of you get to bed. Gotta be up bright and early for church in the morning.”



“I can’t believe Hannibal is making us go to church.” Face said to Murdock. They were sitting in the lobby, drinking coffee. Face had been on watch since three and was looking like it. Rumpled was the word Murdock was thinking of looking at him.

“He thinks it will help us get a handle on the feeling in the town,” Murdock said. “And he probably wants to cock a snook at Jed.” He sipped his coffee. They sat for a moment watching David coming down the corridor from the direction of the kitchens.

“Why do you suppose he’s walking on his hands?” Face asked.

“Because he can?” Murdock said, not seeing why a person would need any other reason.

“Knock that off!” Mike’s voice came from a room off the corridor as David passed the door.

“And because it annoys his dad.” Murdock added. The boy flipped back onto his feet. Mike came out of the room.

“You’ll mess up your suit,” he said handing David up a jacket, then he beckoned him to bend down and he straightened up David’s tie. Hannibal appeared from the room, also wearing a suit.

“Sunday best, Colonel?” Murdock asked, grinning.

“I’d better get changed,” Face said, standing up.

“Oh, that’s okay, Face, you don’t have to come.”

“I thought BA was staying here on guard?” Face said.

“He is.” Hannibal said.

“So I can get some rest?” Face asked, hopefully.

“Nope, you’re taking Jed’s truck back.” He tossed the keys to Face, who caught them one-handed. Face groaned. “Now be careful not to scratch it,” Hannibal said. “Though should you feel the urge to, say, let all the tires down and leave the radio and the air-con running, well you just go right ahead and indulge that urge.” Despite his tiredness Face grinned a little.

“Right, Colonel.” He headed towards the door, and then turned back. “Wait, how do I get back?”

“Just start walking, we’ll pick you up on the way back.” Face did not look overly thrilled with the idea of walking. He left grumbling.

“Ready Murdock? Right, we’ll take your car, Mike. Let’s go to church.”


The church was a handsome white stone building, with an impressive arched doorway. People were milling about outside as they arrived, chatting in the warm sunshine. Mike greeted people politely, but most of them only gave him curt nods in response. He didn’t appear to let that bother him, but Hannibal could see his jaw clenching tighter and tighter. David just glowered at people who didn’t respond politely to his father. Murdock was looking around, eyes narrowed in concentration.

“Theorising, Holmes?” Hannibal asked. Murdock smiled and shook his head.

“Simply observing.” He said. Hannibal looked around. He wasn’t sure what exactly Murdock was observing; he couldn’t see anything worth observing. Just a standard crowd of people, smartly turned out in their Sunday clothes. Nothing unusual about them that he could see. Still, Murdock had his own perspective; they’d soon see what he came up with.

Then something worth observing turned up. The Heinemann’s. Not just the brothers, but the whole family, in three large sedans. Jed got out of his car and went around to open the passenger door. A woman in her sixties got out. She was a tiny wisp of a thing, barely more than five feet tall, smartly dressed in pale blue, with a matching hat. She took Jed’s arm and they walked towards the church, the rest of the family following.

“That’s the mother?” Hannibal asked. She was being deferred to as if she was the Queen of England by the town’s people but was greeting them in a friendly way. Now and then she stopped to talk to someone, to pat the head of a child, or to coo over a baby.

“Grace Heinemann,” Mike confirmed, nodding. “Her late husband was the one who really established the family in this town apparently. Put a lot of money into the place. Built this church for one thing. He was Mayor for about thirty years.”

“And Jed, Aaron and Zeke just live off that legacy?” Murdock asked.

“Yes, literally off the money, they don’t do much work. And off the reputation.” He shook his head. “Their mother must be really disappointed in them, I feel sorry for her.” She couldn’t have heard him speaking, but Grace looked over at Mike and his party at that moment. Mike gave a nod in greeting and she smiled back at him. Jed saw where she was looking and scowled at them all. Hannibal grinned back at him, though resisted the urge to wave.

Among Jed’s family members Hannibal noticed a girl of about David’s age, wondered if this was the daughter, Debbie, Jed wanted the boy to keep away from. The kid had claimed he was just innocently talking about school, but when Hannibal glanced at him he was looking at Debbie and Hannibal wasn’t so sure about the innocence. David had his head down a little and was looking at her through his bangs. And looking wasn’t really the word. Smouldering was more like it. He had that down pretty well for someone so young, Hannibal thought, and it was only going to get better as he got older. Debbie was looking back at him with sidelong glances, until Jed snapped something quietly and a woman, presumably her mother, leaned close and spoke sharply to her. She put her head down, blushing.

As the sound of the organ came from the church the people began to move inside. The Heinemann family took up the front two pews, which no one else had attempted to sit in. Mike’s party took a pew near the back. Hannibal didn’t mind that, being near the door was a good strategic position. They opened their hymnbooks and began to sing.

Chapter 4

“If I get pneumonia and die I’ll never speak to you again.” Face said getting out of the car.

“Now, Face,” Hannibal said, “I couldn’t know it was going to start raining.”

When the service ended the congregation had left the church to find an appropriately biblical downpour in progress. Face was half way up the hill to the hotel when they picked him up. He was apparently deliberately avoiding the shelter of the trees in order to get as wet and therefore as righteously aggrieved as possible. Squeezing into the back seat of Mike’s car beside Murdock he reported that Jed’s truck had flat tires and battery as Hannibal had requested, then subsided into a damp sulk for the rest of the short journey.

BA had nothing to report, but he did have a good giggle at the sight of Face, who stomped off to take a long hot shower while the others started fixing lunch. After the meal Face went to get some sleep. Hannibal took up position at the command post. BA asked if he wanted company, but Hannibal just shook his head. He had a cigar and a thoughtful expression. Recognising the colonel was in planning mode BA left him to it. Mike was in his office working on his account books; David was outside practicing on his skateboard now the rain had stopped. BA found Murdock lounging on a dustsheet covered sofa in the lobby, reading.

“Hey, Murdock,” he said. “What’s the book?” Murdock held it up.

“‘The Lucasville Telephone Directory’. The phone book? You’re reading the phone book?” Murdock just smiled at him. “Crazy fool.” BA muttered. “Reading the darn phone book.” He shook his head and grumbled off to work on his van.


Murdock got up and stretched. The afternoon sunlight was starting to slant through the windows. He noticed the sound of David’s skateboard rumbling up and down had stopped. Glancing through the door he saw the boy sitting on the steps to the entrance. Murdock went to the kitchen then went outside.

“Hey, David, you want a drink?” Murdock asked holding out a soda can. David looked up at him. His eyes were red rimmed and he looked away again quickly after he took the soda.

“Thanks, Mr Murdock.”

“Just ‘Murdock’ is okay.” Murdock said, “Hey can I have a go on your board?” David looked up at him again, surprised.

“Um, okay if you like.”

Murdock hopped on and took a couple of turns around the paved area at the front of the hotel. As he rolled past BA where he was working on his van Murdock saluted him and said, “Big guy.”

“Fool,” BA said, whether as a greeting or an insult Murdock wasn’t sure.

Murdock stopped in front of David and sat down beside him. David didn’t speak, just drank his soda, gazing off over the valley.

“You thinking about your mom?” Murdock asked. David stared at him.

“Yeah, how’d you know?”

Murdock just shrugged. “I lost my mom when I was a boy. Maybe I know the look.”

“Oh.” David paused. “How old were you?”

“Five. I didn’t really understand what ‘dead’ meant. My dad tried to explain that she’d gone to heaven. I asked him where heaven was and he said it was up in the sky.” The two of them looked up at the sky. Grey clouds promising more rain drifted lazily across the blue. “So I started walking around looking up the whole time, hoping I’d see her, you know. I sure bumped into stuff a lot, let me tell you.” David smiled a little. “People looked at me funny when I said I was staring at the sky to see my mom, so instead I told them I was looking at aeroplanes, that I loved aeroplanes. Then everyone started buying me model planes and books about planes and posters of planes. By the time I was ten my bedroom needed its own air traffic control system.” Another small smile from the boy.

“So that’s why you became a pilot?”

“Naw, that was for the chicks and the money.” This time David laughed out loud and Murdock grinned. David stretched out a leg and put one foot on his skateboard, rolled it back and forth.

“When I was a little kid I thought my mom could fly,” he said. “When she was doing her act, on the trapeze, she’d be spinning through the air and I think… I think I thought she was a super hero, like in a comic book.” He gave Murdock a slightly wobbly smile. “Stupid kid, huh?”

“I think all moms are superheroes.” Murdock said. David didn’t answer, just went on rolling the skateboard back and forth. “You want another soda?” Murdock asked. David shook his head. “Well, I’m getting one.” Murdock stood up.

“Murdock.” David said, looked up at him and smiled. “You’re pretty cool. For a gage, anyway.” Murdock raised his eyebrows.

“Gage? What is that, circus talk for crazy fool?”

“Something like that. Or my dad might say you’re okay for a tall bastard.” He grinned. “Well, he wouldn’t say that in front of me.”

“I should hope not,” Murdock said with mock severity. He went inside and got himself another soda, then wandered into the dining room. He stood looking at the family portrait for a while, the word ‘gage’ running around his head, looking for a place to settle, while he looked at Elena Harper.

“Hey, Murdock,” Face poked his head round the door. Murdock turned to look at him and smiled a little. Face had on jeans and a battered looking sweater. He mustn’t have blow-dried his hair before he lay down to rest because it was somewhat fluffy. “Hannibal wants to talk to all of us. He’s in the kitchen, come on.” He left and Murdock followed.

“You feeling better?” He asked Face. “No pneumonia symptoms?” Face gave a wry smile at the memory of his earlier complaints.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Hey, do you like the name Valley Vista Hotel?”

“No.” Murdock said.

“Oh. Okay. So what you been up to all afternoon?”

“Oh, reading. Being pretty cool, the usual.” He enjoyed Face’s quirky questioning look at him. “Face, do you know what a gage is?”

“A what?”

“Never mind,” Murdock said. They reached the kitchen where the others were gathered. Mike was pouring coffee and handing it out. David sat on one of the stainless steel worktops eating cookies. BA was washing up his oily hands. Hannibal stood waiting, no cigar now. Once everyone was settled the colonel began.

“I’ve been thinking about how we handle this. I got the measure of those guys last night and I can see where to go now.” He looked around at the anticipation on their faces. “Obviously we can fight these creeps and kick their… ah… butts. But we can’t stay here forever and once we go they come back. So we have to slam the lid on them for good.”

“How are you planning on doing that?” Mike asked.

“Well I don’t think that your showing up in town turned the Heinemann’s from nice law abiding boys into bigoted drunken jerks. They must have done this kind of thing before.”

“According to what I’ve heard, they have, yes,” Mike confirmed. “Anybody they didn’t like was ‘persuaded’ to leave town.”

“So I’ll bet they have a few skeletons in their closets.” Hannibal said. “And I’ll bet they haven’t ever bothered to conceal those skeletons very well.”

“Yeah, why bother cleaning up the mess when you know the sheriff isn’t going to come looking?” Face agreed.

“Well we’re going to go looking. Or rather you are, Face, and you Murdock. Meanwhile BA and I will keep them, shall we say… distracted.” He grinned. “They’ve been going out of their way to make things inconvenient for you, Mike, so we’re going to make things inconvenient for them.”

“Like you did with their truck,” David said.

“Exactly, kid. That was just a little taster of what’s in store.” He looked at Mike again. “You said they don’t do much work, so where do they hang out all day? I’m guessing it’s not the public library.”

“A roadhouse, just out of town. They actually own it, or hold the mortgage on it or something. Anyway they treat it like it’s theirs.”

“Perfect.” Hannibal said. “We’ll pay it a little visit tonight.” He turned to Murdock who was pouring himself another cup of coffee. “Murdock, I think you’re cooking up a little theory about all this. You ready to share it?”

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.” Murdock said, in his Holmes voice, which made BA grumble.

“Okay. Anything I can do to help?”

“Well, actually,” Murdock said, normally. “With your permission, I was thinking of going out tonight. Taking in a few of the local bars and chatting to a few people. Seeing what I can find out.”

“Want me to come?” Face asked.

Murdock shook his head. “This is more a solo operation,” he said, his voice becoming dramatic. “A secret undercover quest to probe the dark underbelly of Lucasville.” He grinned at BA’s scowl and Hannibal and Face’s puzzled expressions then picked up a cookie and dunked it in his coffee. “You’d be too conspicuous, Face. I’m not planning on hitting the upmarket cocktail lounges.”

“Okay,” Hannibal said, deciding to just let Murdock get on with it. “Face, in the morning you and Murdock can follow up on what he finds out tonight. Now, David, you can help me out with my end. You got many singles?”

“Singles? Yeah a few, why?”

“Oh, I just wanted to borrow a couple, if you can spare them.” Hannibal grinned. “What kind of music do you like? The really loud stuff that us old geezers hate?” He asked in a hopeful voice.


Murdock walked into the third bar at just after midnight. It was dark and smoky. A TV over the bar played a sports highlights show. Men sat around in small groups or alone. There was little conversation. Murdock took a stool at the bar, next to a couple of tough looking men and lit a cigarette.

“Gimme a draught,” he said when the barman came over. One of the men at the bar glanced at him, took in the design on the back of his jacket.

“Da Nang? You were in country?” His tone of voice implied Murdock better have been, or wearing that jacket would be a fashion statement he’d come to regret making.

“Yeah,” Murdock said. “You too?”

“Did a tour.”

The barman came back. “Get another couple for my buddies here,” Murdock said, nodding at the men seated to his left.

“Thanks, pal.” They sat drinking their beer in silence. The barman polished glasses. The TV burbled about a baseball game.

“Not seen you around before,” the other veteran said to Murdock eventually.

“Just got into town today,” Murdock said.

“Looking for work?”

“Yeah, you know anyone hiring?”

“Maybe. Depends what you can do.”

Murdock shrugged, “Hey, I can turn my hand to most anything. What about that big place up the side of the valley? Looks like a hotel or something. Looked like there was work going on there.” He saw a glance pass between the barman and the customers.

“Nah, you don’t want to be applying there,” the veteran told Murdock. “Not right now anyway. Maybe in a few weeks.”

“Well, I think I’ll be sticking around.” Murdock said. “I like the look of this place.”

“It’s a regular garden spot,” the veteran’s previously silent friend said in a gruff voice.

“Yeah,” Murdock said. “What I noticed ‘specially is how clean you keep the place, know what I mean?” They looked at him a little puzzled. “You know, keepin’ the ethnics out. I don’t think I seen one all day.” Their faces changed to understanding, and they nodded.

“Yeah,” the veteran said. “That’s how we like it around here.”

“I’ve just been in LA for a couple of months,” Murdock said. “Damn ‘spics have got that place all sewn up. I went for a job pushing a broom around at a convenience store and they blew me off ’cause they said they wanted someone who can speak Spanish.” They looked suitably outraged, shook their heads.

“Man, ain’t that the way,” the barman said.

“Bastards want us to speak their languages and they won’t even learn American,” the veteran said.

“Ten, twenty years time the white man’s gonna be the minority in this country,” Murdock said. They nodded in agreement, faces serious. They sat drinking their beers for a while.

“So how’d you do it around here? Keep ’em out?” Murdock asked.

“Oh, we have our ways.”

Murdock laughed. “I’ll bet.” His beer was empty.

“Get you another?” the veteran asked. Murdock smiled, moved his bar stool a little closer to his new ‘friends’.


Chapter 5

“I have been in the Valley of Fear. I am not out of it yet,” Murdock said, in a dramatic tone.

The rest of the team and Mike looked at him puzzled. BA had just arrived back from dropping David off to catch the bus to school and Murdock had called them all into the living room.

“Okay, enough with the mystery, Murdock,” Face said, getting impatient. “Just tell us what you found out.” He’d been on watch when Murdock had come in about three o’clock that morning. Refusing to answer any of Face’s questions Murdock had taken a very long shower and gone to bed.

“Very well,” his voice wasn’t quite Holmes, but the tone was. He started to stalk around the room as he spoke, hands behind his back. “I don’t know if any of you have observed it, but this appears to be the whitest town in America.” They glanced at each other.

“I suppose most of the people are…” Hannibal said.

“Not most, Hannibal,” Murdock interrupted. “All. Think about it, all of you. Have you seen anyone with dark skin since we got here?”

“Well we haven’t met everyone in the town,” Hannibal said. “Maybe there’s some…” He stopped, frowned. Murdock guessed what he was thinking.

“And none of them go to church, do they?” Murdock asked him. “There’s no black people, no Asians, no Hispanics. No Hispanics, Hannibal? In California?” They were all looking thoughtful, but a little sceptical. “Look, I know there’s plenty of small towns that are nearly all white, but one hundred percent? The population of this place is about three thousand. I read right through that phone book and I didn’t find any Spanish names, or Chinese, or Middle Eastern, not one.”

“He’s right,” Mike said. “I never really thought of it, but now he says it, I see it. In the months I’ve been here I’ve not seen anyone of a different colour. Not living here.”

“And you don’t think they’re just made to feel unwelcome?” Hannibal asked, serious, seeing the intensity in Murdock’s eyes. Murdock seemed very certain about this. “You think it’s organised. That it’s…” he hesitated a moment looking for the right word. “Policy?”

“I was practically told as much three different times last night.” Murdock confirmed. “Anybody the wrong colour is kept out, or driven out if they try to stay. The Heinemann’s are the ringleaders of course. There’s something very nasty going on here, Hannibal. And it’s been going on for a long time. A long time.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Face said, raising his hands. “I’m not disputing what you’re saying Murdock, you’re right, I haven’t seen a single black face in this town. But what has this got to do with Mike? If you think the Heinemann’s agenda is racial then what have they got against him?” He glanced over at their client. “He’s white.”

“Yes.” Murdock stopped in front of the fireplace, glanced at the family photographs on the mantelpiece. “That’s why I don’t think this is really about Mike at all. I think it’s about David.”

“David?” Face said, baffled. Murdock turned to Mike, who had a look of dawning understanding on his face.

“Mike, you said your wife’s family were from Europe. Did they leave because of the Nazis?”

“Yes, Mr Murdock, they did.” Mike said. “And I think I know what your next question is. And the answer to it is; yes, my wife was a gypsy.”

Murdock gave a satisfied smile, pleased with his deductions.

“So David is half gypsy.” Face said.

“Not nearly white enough for the Heinemann’s.” Murdock said. “But even they couldn’t get away with hounding a fourteen year old boy out of town.”

“So it was lucky for them that his dad happened to be someone who’s a target in himself.” Hannibal said. “Not that they would need an excuse anyway. Picking on someone like Mike would come as natural as breathing to those creeps, whatever his colour.” He looked at Mike, who was looking very serious and worried. “Don’t worry, Mike. We’ll settle these guys.”

“Yeah.” BA said. He’d been quiet and thoughtful as Murdock outlined his theory. He turned to Hannibal. “We have to, Colonel. Guys who think that way, they don’t change their minds. I’ve met enough of ’em to know that.”

Hannibal nodded in agreement. “Murdock, did you find anything specific we can nail these guys with?”

“Well, I got a lead that could possibly get us something.” Murdock answered. “The last person to really stand up to these creeps was a guy name of Alan Chen. He was a dentist. Came here about two years ago and they came down hard on him straight away, wrecked his office, his car, generally harassed him. The sheriff wouldn’t help him of course. But he stood up to them for nearly a year. Finally left town.”

“If we could find Chen,” Hannibal said. “Maybe see if he would testify against these guys?”

“Shouldn’t be too hard to track down a dentist, if he’s still practicing,” Face said. “I’ll call Amy, she’ll be able to do some tracing for us.”

“Might not be needed.” Murdock said. “Apparently he was seeing a woman here in town. She runs the local beauty parlour. Maybe she’ll know where he is?”

“Beauty parlour?” Hannibal grinned and turned to the lieutenant. “Face, I was just thinking you could do with a trim.”

“Oh, no.” Face said, emphatically. “Absolutely not. I’ll do most things you order me to, Hannibal, but I will not let some small town hair butcher hack me about.” He crossed his arms, looking defensive. “René would never forgive me.”

“René?” Hannibal asked.

“My stylist,” Face said. “I know I’ve mentioned him before.” He sighed, exasperated. “I swear I sometimes think you guys never listen to a word I say.”

“Oh, René.” Hannibal said

“Yeah, Colonel, what’s the matter with you? You know, René.” Murdock said. BA just grunted.

“Though I could use a manicure,” Face examined his nails critically. “Haven’t had one for a month.”

“Oh yeah,” BA said. “I was gonna mention that. I’m getting embarrassed to be seen wit’ you.” He giggled. The others grinned. Face stood up with an air of affronted dignity.

“If anybody needs me I’ll be at the beauty parlour. Can I get a taxi, or am I expected to walk halfway across town? Again.”

“We’ll give you a lift.” Hannibal said. “BA and I need to go follow up on what I’ve decided to call ‘The Great Distraction Tour 1984’.” Face rolled his eyes. “Murdock, stay on guard.” Hannibal, Face and BA left. Murdock sat down, looked at Mike, who had gone quiet and serious again.

“You okay?” Murdock asked.

Mike looked up, tried to raise a small smile. “This has put a whole different perspective on things, Murdock. I feel like I’ve put my boy in harm’s way, now I know it’s not me they’re really after.”

“We’ll keep you both safe, I promise.” Murdock said.

“How did you figure out about Elena being a gypsy?” Mike asked.

“Deduction.” Murdock said, loftily. Then he smiled. “David called me a ‘gage’ and I knew I’d heard the word before. Finally it clicked. A guy I knew in ‘nam, he was from a gypsy family and he used to say it sometimes. It means non-Romany, right?”

“You know, you could have just asked me that.” Mike said.

“I could have, but where’s the fun in that?” Murdock said.

“And I’d tan that boy’s hide; if I could reach.” Mike said. “It does mean non-Romany, but it’s not entirely polite either. He thinks he can get away with it, since most people don’t know what it means.”

“He wasn’t being rude.” Murdock said. “He’s a good kid. I like him.”

Mike smiled, then looked up at the sound of a vehicle pulling up outside.

“That must be the contractors from Bridgeport.”


BA parked the van in the cover of some trees, a short distance from the roadhouse where the Heinemann brothers apparently spent most of their time. After it had closed up last night Hannibal and BA had paid a visit and done a few hours work. BA had handled the technical stuff and Hannibal had enjoyed himself with a hacksaw.

“The bug working okay?” Hannibal asked.

“Yeah. We’ll be able to hear everything going on inside,” BA said. He turned on the volume on the receiver. “Sounds like someone’s in there now, opening the place up.” The sound of glasses clinking, a man whistling, came through the speaker.

They waited, drinking coffee from Styrofoam cups. BA thought about the way the server had looked at him when he’d gone into the coffee shop to buy them. He was used to getting strange looks, with his hair and jewellery and his attitude. But now he was wondering if there was more to it. Would he have got exactly the same stare if he’d gone in there wearing a suit and a friendly smile?

“You think Murdock is right, Hannibal?” BA asked.

“He seems pretty sure about it.” Hannibal said.

“If he is…” Hannibal waited for him to continue. When he did he was wearing a deep scowl, but his voice was quiet and very serious. “If he is we gotta slam the lid on these guys for good, Hannibal. And not just ’cause of Mike and David.”

“We will, BA.” Hannibal promised. “And here comes Jed,” The fancy truck was approaching. “Bright and early. Looks like he blew his tires back up.” He grinned.

Jed and Zeke got out of the truck and went inside. In a moment their voices came through BA’s receiver.

“Mornin’, Al, get me a draught.” That was Jed. A moment later came the sound of very unhappy machinery and shortly afterwards a spraying sound and a very unhappy Al. Jed and Zeke laughed uproariously. Hannibal and BA smiled.

“There’s something wrong with the damn pumps.” Al’s voice said. “I’ll check the kegs.”

“Well get us some coffee first.” Zeke said. There was a pause. “What the hell is wrong with this stool? It’s wobbling more than Al’s ass.”

“Use another one.” There were scraping sounds as Zeke scratched up the wooden floor.

“This one’s the same! Man, this place is a dump. And this coffee is terrible! What the hell is in it?”

“Quit your whining.” Jed said. “Put some music on and let’s have a game of pool.”

BA and Hannibal looked at each other, grinning. In a moment they heard the sound of pool balls dropping.

“Where are the balls? They didn’t come out, there’s something blocking…”

And then the noise started. BA and Hannibal could hear it not only over the receiver but also outside. The less than dulcet tones of Lemmy Kilmister assailed the morning air.


“What the hell?” Jed’s voice was just audible under the ear-splitting sound of Motorhead. “Turn it down!”

“It won’t turn down!” Zeke wailed.

BA turned down the speaker of the receiver a bit.

“Nice BA. Jamming the volume at maximum, that was a master stroke.”

BA giggled. “Good choice of music, man. They needed their tastes widened.”

“Yeah, that jukebox had both types of music, country and western.”

BA cautiously turned the speaker up a little again.


A shotgun blast was followed by a reduction in the volume of the music. A second blast and it was silenced altogether.

“I do hate to see a grown man give way to temper like that.” Hannibal said, with mock sadness. “Think those speakers are worth a lot?”

“Not any more.” BA said. “Man, I wish we’d put a camera in there.”

“Christ, what is going on here?” Jed’s voice sounded through the receiver. “And where are you going?”

“The john.” Zeke answered.

“Okay, BA, let’s go say hello.” BA grabbed a rifle and they got out of the van. Hannibal paused on the way to the bar to let all the air out of Jed’s tires.

When Hannibal and BA burst in, Zeke was just coming out of the bathroom. He was soaked from head to foot.

“The sink, Jed! The faucets came right off! I can’t stop the water…”

“Well, it’s good to know he washes his hands.” Hannibal said. Jed whirled to face them. BA had his rifle trained on Jed, who still held his shotgun, but hadn’t reloaded yet. “Hi, guys. I’d ask for a beer, but I hear you’re having trouble with the pumps.”

“You did this, all of this.” Jed waved a hand at the wrecked speakers, at the pool table and the bar.

“Yep, you got me.” Hannibal admitted. “And if you don’t back off of the Harpers you get more. You get worse.” He lit a cigar. “I’m a high stakes player, Jed, and I don’t have a limit. Let’s see, for my next turn I’ll raise you…” He glanced around. “One jukebox.”

Jed and Zeke hit the floor as BA sprayed a burst of automatic fire into the jukebox. It exploded.

“This guy is nuts!” Zeke yelled.

“That’s right.” Hannibal said. “If you’re smart, Jed, you’ll fold. Now.” He turned to leave, BA covering him. Then he turned back briefly. “Oh and if I were you I’d dump that coffee maker and get a new one. I mean you just don’t even wanna know…” Jed and Zeke looked sick.

“Now that was fun.” Hannibal said as they sped off in the van.

“The kid’s records were in that jukebox.” BA pointed out.

“Yeah,” Hannibal said, with a touch of regret. Then he grinned. “On the bright side Mike will be pleased.”

BA drove on for a while. “So what did you do to the coffee machine?” BA asked.

“Never touched it.” Hannibal said with a shrug. “I guess Al just makes a lousy cup of coffee.”

“So they gonna dump a perfectly good coffee machine?”

“Looked expensive too,” Hannibal said, smirking. “About…” the phone rang

“Lou’s Delivery… Oh hi, Murdock. Yeah? Okay, right…right…okay we’ll be back in about thirty minutes.” He hung up the phone. “Head into town, BA, we gotta pick something up to take back.”

“Lunch?” BA asked, hopefully.

“A carpenter.”

Chapter 6

Hollywood Hair and Beauty.

Hollywood, Face thought. Yeah, right. He sighed. The beauty parlour exterior was painted in pink and lilac. He suspected the only other men that ever stepped inside were there to repair things. Preparing himself for the funny looks he knew he was about to receive he pushed the door open and went in. A young woman at the reception desk looked at him surprised. Probably wondering why I’m not carrying a toolkit, Face thought.

“Can I help you?” She asked.

“Hi,” he said, smiling. “I don’t have an appointment but I was wondering if you could fit me in for a manicure?” The receptionist stared at him as if he’d made an improper suggestion involving chickens. He kept smiling, aware that the rest of the salon had gone quiet. It reminded him of the times they had gone into really tough bars and BA had ordered milk. He resisted glancing around to look for tumbleweeds going past.

“You want a manicure?”

“Linda, is there a problem?” Another woman came up, mid thirties, quite attractive, with perfect hair, makeup and nails. She had a friendly smile and Face gave her his best smile in return. If this was the lady he’d come to talk to then maybe this little mission wouldn’t be so bad after all.

“He wants a manicure, Miss James.” Linda said. Patricia James, the owner. Bingo.

“Certainly, sir.” She turned to one of the beauticians. “Alison, could you fit the gentleman in for a no-polish manicure?”

“Actually,” Face said, “Do you think you could do it yourself, Miss James? I’m sure Alison…” he smiled at Alison, “is very good, but I just have this, well, I suppose you’d call it a policy. I always like to see the person in charge, is that all right with you?” She couldn’t help smiling back as Face kept the Smile on full beam. His jaw was starting to ache.

“Of course. I’m with a client right now, but I’ll be done in about ten minutes, if you don’t mind waiting? Linda, get the gentleman some coffee.”

Face waited in a comfortable chair beside the reception desk. Linda gave him a very acceptable cup of coffee and another odd look. While appearing to read a magazine Face watched Patricia James, who was finishing off a hair do on an old lady. Face wondered idly what it was that made women of a certain age decide that blue was a good colour for their hair. Patricia was good he thought. She had a very friendly manner with the customers. And it seemed like genuine friendliness, not just professional. He had also noticed that her accent was definitely Los Angeles. This was going to be a piece of cake.

After she saw the old lady out Patricia came over to Face.

“This way, Mr…?”

“Peck. But please call me Templeton.”

“Templeton? Well I’m Patricia, pleased to meet you.” They sat at the manicure table and Face showed her his hands.

“They’re a mess,” Face said. “Not had them done for a month, been so busy. But my boss is coming up tomorrow and she really notices that sort of thing.”

“What line of work are you in?” Patricia asked, conversationally.

Face looked around and leaned in to speak in a conspiratorial whisper. “Can you keep a secret? I’m a location scout. I’m in the area looking for locations for Mr Stallone’s next project.”

“How exciting.” Patricia said, quietly. “I thought you must be up from LA.” She smiled, massaging lotion into his hands. “You’re the first man I’ve done a manicure for since I left there.”

“Oh you’re from LA?”

She nodded. “Moved here about eight years ago, after my divorce. I wanted somewhere I could bring up my daughter away from the smog and the crime.”

“So now you bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to the lives of these small town folks?” Face asked, smiling. Patricia laughed at that.

“I try.” She picked up an emery board and started to shape his nails.

“You know,” Face said. “A guy I used to know came to work here too, couple of years ago. I’m sure it was Lucasville. I’ll have to look him up.”

“Was he in show business too?” Patricia asked.

“No, he was a dentist. Alan Chen.” He was glad she wasn’t using the nail scissors or he might have lost a finger as she started violently.

“You know Alan?”

“Yes, but I’ve not seen him for a while. Is he still in town?”

Patricia made a visible effort to control herself, began filing his nails again. “No. He left about a year ago.”

“Oh, that’s a shame. You know where he went?”

“No. He didn’t tell me.” Her voice was cold, but there was pain in her eyes.

“You knew him well?” Face asked, making his voice gentle.

“We were friends. Actually we were seeing each other for a few months.” Face feigned surprise. She looked a little sad, worked on his nails for a while.

“It didn’t end well then?” Face asked. Patricia looked at him, at the sympathetic look in his eyes. For a moment Face was worried that she looked as if she was going to stay quiet, but no one could resist his ‘tell me everything’ look.

“I thought it was going alright,” she said. “But when he left town he didn’t even say goodbye.” She frowned. “Which was bad enough for me, but Lily, that’s my daughter, well, she liked him a lot. I’d have thought he’d have at least said goodbye for her sake.”

“So he just left town suddenly then?” Face asked. He was starting to have a very bad feeling about this.

“Yes. During the night. In fact…” She gave a weak smile. “I was a little foolish about it, I reported him missing to the sheriff’s department. A deputy went round to his house and broke in. He said that Alan’s things were gone, said there was nothing suspicious.” She was buffing Face’s nails now, perhaps a little harder than necessary.

Face took a slight chance. “Doesn’t seem like Alan to just skip town like that.”

“I know. He didn’t sort out any of his affairs, his practice, left behind unpaid debts.” Patricia shook her head. “Oh nothing major, just that month’s bills. But, well, you know what Alan’s like, sort of old fashioned about that kind of thing. He was always saying a man had to meet his obligations and responsibilities.”

“Yeah…” Face said. He waited for a few seconds, trying not to appear too eager with his questions, but Patricia spoke again, making his question unnecessary.

“I blame those damn Heinemann brothers. They were on his back the whole time. Creeps.”

“Heinemann brothers?”

“Oh, local big shots,” Patricia said contemptuously. “Strut around like they own the place.” She shrugged. “I don’t know what made them so down on Alan, but he had a lot of trouble with them. They wanted him out but he always swore he wouldn’t go. I guess in the end it got to be too much for him.” She put down the buffer. “There you go, you’re done.”

“Very nice job,” Face said, examining his hands. They both rose. “Well it was good to meet you, Patricia, I’ll recommend your establishment to my friends.” She came with him to reception where he settled the bill.

“Templeton, if you do happen to see Alan again sometime…” She stopped and then shook her head. “Never mind. Nothing. I just hope he found somewhere he could be happy.”

Face smiled at her, but he strongly suspected that Alan Chen wasn’t any place happy.

Unless you counted the afterlife.


“The Heinemann’s will kill me if I work for Harper.” Hannibal glanced back at the man sitting in the back of the van. He had a large toolbox on his knees.

“No they won’t.” Hannibal said.

“What the hell do you know about it, mister? You’re not from around here.”

“The Heinemann’s are living on borrowed time, Mr Greene.” Hannibal told him.

“Yeah,” BA said “They ain’t gonna be telling you folks what to do for much longer.”

“So you see, you’re getting in ahead of the crowd.” Hannibal said. “Think of yourself as an trendsetter.” Mr Greene looked highly dubious. “Okay, put it this way. Right now who are you more scared of, us or them?” Greene looked at BA who gave a low growl. He stopped his protests and stayed quiet.

They arrived back at the hotel. Mike met them outside.

“Mike, I believe you’re short a carpenter on your work crew today,” Hannibal said. He slid open the side door of the van. “Let me introduce Mr Greene of Valley Carpentry and Construction.” Greene got out reluctantly. Mike stepped up and offered the carpenter his hand.

“Mr Greene.” Greene saw BA’s glare and quickly transferred his toolbox to his left hand and shook Mike’s hand. “I can offer you a lot of work, sir, if you want it.”

“He wants it.” Hannibal said. He clapped Greene on the shoulder. “Believe me, very soon you’ll be thanking us for giving you this opportunity.”

The carpenter wasn’t thanking them yet, but he followed Mike inside. Hannibal looked up at the window of the command post. Murdock waved to him.

“Lunch, BA?” Hannibal asked.

“Thought you’d never ask.”


Face was standing outside a diner wondering about whether to get some lunch in town or back at the hotel when a sedan drew up beside him. He tensed when Aaron Heinemann got out. Aaron came around to the sidewalk but didn’t approach Face. Instead he went to the passenger door and opened it. A woman that Face guessed was Grace Heinemann got out. She looked at Face and spoke to her son. He glared at Face and mother and son seemed to be having a quiet argument. Then to Face’s surprise she walked right up to him. Aaron kept on glaring at Face.

“Sir.” She said, offering her hand. “I am Grace Heinemann. I believe you are one of the men currently working for Mr Harper.”

“Yes, I am.” He took her hand and shook it. “Templeton Peck, at your service.” The ‘at your service’ just came out automatically, but he was pleased to see it annoyed Aaron.

She nodded. “May we talk for a few moments?”

“Well, I don’t mean to be rude, ma’am, but I don’t think your guard dog likes that idea.”

“Oh, he’s just trying to be tough. My boys are a little over-protective.” She smiled at Aaron. “Wait here, darling. I’ll only be a few minutes.” Face grinned at Aaron’s obvious embarrassment at being called ‘darling’ in front of the enemy.

“Shall we have a cup of coffee?” She nodded at the diner. Face figured why not, since it was clearly pissing off Aaron no end. He glanced over at the youngest Heinemann brother and briefly considered the idea of saying “Alan Chen” to him to see how he reacted, but decided to hold that one in reserve. He held open the door of the diner for Grace and they went inside. They sat in a booth and Face ordered coffee when the waitress came over. Grace called the waitress by name and asked for her “usual”.

“I didn’t see you in church with your friends, Mr Peck.”

“I was, ah… busy,” Face said. Messing with your son’s truck. “And I’m Catholic anyway, Mrs Heinemann.” He added, hoping to head off the questions he could see approaching about whether or not he was ‘saved’.

“Oh, I see.” The waitress arrived with coffee for Face and tea for Grace. “Thank you dear.” She turned back to Face. “I have to apologise for the way my sons have been behaving.”

“Well that’s very sweet,” Face said, “but really it’s down to them to apologise, isn’t it? And to stop what they’re doing.”

“I have asked them to,” she said. “But I’m afraid I don’t seem to have any influence over them any more.” She sighed. “Not since Nathaniel passed on. My late husband that is. They always did as he asked.”

“I’m told he was a very respected man around here.” Face said.

“Oh yes. He put so much into the town. Nathaniel thought it was very important that a man makes a contribution to his community.”

“Well that’s all Mike Harper is trying to do.” Face said. “His hotel would provide jobs, bring in money.”

“I know. When he came to see me we had a nice long chat about all his plans.” She sighed. “The problem is you see a friend of my sons’ was hoping to buy the property, but Mr Harper outbid him. Now I’m afraid my boys are acting out of a misguided sense of loyalty to their friend.”

Yeah, Face thought, you just keep thinking that, lady. You just keep turning a blind eye to what your darling boys are really up to. He glanced through the window to see Aaron sitting on the hood of the car waiting for his mother.

“Well it’s been nice to meet you,” Face said, “but I really need to get back.” He gestured for the waitress and asked for the check. The information he’d found out about Alan Chen was burning inside him. He longed to pass it on to the colonel. He was still having to fight the urge to go outside, walk up to Aaron and ask him ‘seen a dentist lately?’

“Of course.” Grace said. “I will talk to my boys again. I hope I can persuade them to leave that poor man alone. He has enough troubles. Losing his wife. His son seems rather a handful. And of course his handicap.”

“Yeah.” Face said. “You know, I don’t think he thinks of it in those terms.”

“He seems very brave. It would have been so much easier for him to stay with the circus, with his… with people like himself.”

“His own kind?” Face asked, his voice a little cold. He wondered how much Mike hated that phrase. Face had only known the man for a few days and already hated it on his behalf. He didn’t let her answer. “Well from what I’ve seen he’s not a man who takes the easy option.” The waitress arrived with the check. Face paid it, refusing to take any of Grace’s money. He shook her hand politely when they left the diner, managed to give Aaron a cheeky grin and went off to find himself a cab.

Chapter 7

“Well, I’ll ask him, but I can’t promise anything. Okay, thanks for your help, Amy.”

Face wandered back through to the living room, where Hannibal and Murdock were waiting, flicking through the notes he had made during his phone call. Mike also came in with a tray of coffee cups, Face held the door open for him.

“Hannibal, Amy wants to come up here, she’s dying to get her teeth into this story.” Face said.

“Maybe in a couple of days,” Hannibal said.

“The Press, Hannibal, is a most valuable institution, if you only know how to use it. ” Murdock said.

“Very good point, Holmes.” Hannibal said. He turned back to Face. “Did she find out anything useful on Alan Chen?”

“Yeah, he’s not practicing as a dentist anywhere in California. She’s got a check going on the whole country, but that could take a while. The guy’s parents are both deceased and no siblings, so there’s no relatives to wonder where he’s gone. Oh, thanks, Mike,” he said, taking a cup of coffee that Mike had just handed him. “He didn’t register a change of address with anybody a year ago. Amy’s checking to see if she can get information on his bank account, and credit card, see if he’s used them in the last year.”

“He won’t have.” Hannibal said. He sounded very certain. They were all quiet and thoughtful for a few moments.

“Do we let the Heinemann’s know that we know?” Face asked.

“I think we do, yeah,” Hannibal said. “I think it’ll push them into making a move, doing something stupid. And then we nail them.”

“Hannibal,” BA’s voice came over Hannibal’s walkie-talkie. “They comin’ again.”

“Speaking of doing something stupid,” Hannibal said. He grinned. “Face go up and relieve BA, I’d like him downstairs.”

“Hannibal, are you implying I don’t look intimidating enough for a confrontation?” Face asked.

“No, I want my best marksman up there, that’s all.” Face looked happier and left. “Mike, you and the kid stay inside,” Hannibal said. He went out front with Murdock. BA joined them a moment later. Looking up Hannibal saw Face at the window, his rifle ready.

It was a little after six o’clock in the evening and the work crew were getting into their van to leave. Mr Greene the carpenter was with them, having been promised a lift back into town. Jed’s shiny truck pulled up and Jed, Zeke and Aaron got out of the front, two of their friends got out of the back. Only two henchmen, Hannibal noticed, wondered if the rest were too scared to come back up here. Jed saw Greene getting in the worker’s van.

“What are you doing here?” He demanded.

“They made me, Mr Heinemann,” Greene protested. “I didn’t have a choice.”

“I’ll settle with you later.” Jed told him.

“No you won’t.” Hannibal said. “Mr Greene is now under my protection. He gets as much as a splinter in his finger, you’re gonna get your ass kicked, Jed.”

“Colonel,” Murdock said. “Since Mr Greene’s occupation is carpentry I deduce that splinters are probably inevitable.”

“Then I guess an ass kicking is probably inevitable, isn’t it?” Hannibal replied. Jed glared at him, then at the workers.

“You boys don’t wanna be working for this man.” Jed said, nodding past Hannibal.

Hannibal glanced over his shoulder, the door was open behind him and Mike was standing there, David behind him.

“Close the door.” Hannibal said quietly to them. He nodded at BA who moved to stand in front of the door.

“Who’s this jerk?” One of the workers asked.

“Hey, real fancy truck, mister.” Another one said. “My sister has one that colour.” The rest of the workers sniggered. Jed looked a little flummoxed.

“What’s wrong, Jed? Not used to people talking to you that way?” Hannibal asked. “Better get used to it. Oh and these guys are from out of town, so they could care less about your big fish small pond crap. Fellas, you can get Mr Greene home okay? Great, see you in the morning.”

“You need us to stick around?” One of them asked, looking at Jed and his group.

“Thanks, but we can handle these girl scouts,” Hannibal said. The workers got into their van and drove off. “Now, what can we do for you, Jed?” Hannibal asked. “Can we offer you some coffee?” BA giggled, which made Murdock look a little puzzled.

“I know who you are,” Jed said, smirking. He was as smug as if he was playing the ace of spades. “You’re the A-Team. You’re wanted. Now I’m willing to forget to call the military police so long as you take off and never come back.”

“Yeah, sure, Jed.” Hannibal said in a mocking tone. “You’re going to call the MPs. You’re going to bring outside law enforcement into this town. Am I supposed to believe that? Am I supposed to believe that you don’t mind me telling them to do a little digging into your affairs?” He was watching them very closely, especially when he said the word ‘digging’ and was sure he saw all three brothers twitch. Zeke and Aaron looked at each other nervously.

“Let’s get out of here,” Zeke said, quietly.

“I mean it, Smith.” Jed said. “You’ve got till midnight, to leave. Then I call the MP’s.”

“You need a dime?” Hannibal asked, flicking one from his pocket to Jed, who tried to catch it on instinct and fumbled it. The coin fell to the ground. “Heads,” Hannibal called as it fell. Jed looked down at it. It was heads. He snarled, turned away towards the truck.

“Er, Jed.” Hannibal said. “I didn’t say you could leave yet.” Jed turned back to him. “Now I told you this morning,” Hannibal went on, “that I was a high stakes player. I advised you to fold, but instead you come back up here, making threats. That was your bid. Now it’s mine.” Hannibal grinned, savouring the moment. He’d been waiting for this. “So I’ll see your threats and I’ll raise you one shiny truck. Face!”

Face put a bullet into the pick up’s gas tank with pinpoint accuracy. The gas tank exploded, engulfing the truck in a huge ball of flame and throwing it several feet into the air

“Oh shit!” Face threw himself to the floor, arms over his head as the window above him shattered. Everyone outside was knocked off his feet by the blast. Several windows smashed.

Hannibal sat up, unhurt, a hand up to shield his eyes from the light of the flames.

“I think getting his nails done improved his aim,” he said to himself. He looked around to see BA and Murdock getting back to their feet. Jed and his brothers and their two friends seemed uninjured too, though very shaken. Jed staggered up and stared in horror at the burning remains of his truck. His mouth opened and closed a few times, but no sound came out. He was literally speechless.

“Yeah, I know,” Hannibal said. “‘You’re dead, Smith.'” He growled, in a mocking imitation of Jed’s voice. “Now get out of here. Oh and if you even think about sending the sheriff up here I’ll knock your teeth out. And it’s so inconvenient getting an appointment with a dentist isn’t it?” His eyes were bright and malicious. He watched their reactions again, this time to the word ‘dentist’. Twitch city.

The two friends had already recovered their wits, turned tail and run. Jed was dragged away by his brothers, still trying to form words.

“Er, could anyone use one of these?” Face came out of the door, carrying two fire extinguishers. BA grabbed one off him and went to tackle the blaze. Hannibal turned as Mike and David came outside. David looked at Hannibal. He appeared considerably more impressed than he had at their first meeting.

“That was awesome.” He said, with deep admiration. Mike frowned.

“Inside, David, you have homework to do.” David tore himself away reluctantly, went inside looking over his shoulder at the burning truck for as long as possible. Hannibal grinned, then made his face serious as he saw Mike looking at the broken windows.

“Sorry about that. The explosion was a little bigger than I expected. Well about twice as big actually. We’ll deduct the repair costs of the broken windows from our fee.” Mike shook his head, started to refuse the offer, but Hannibal went on. “I insist. It was worth it just to see Jed gulping like a fish.” He noticed his dime on the ground, bent to pick it up. “Here,” he tossed it to Mike, who caught it. “Give that to David, he’ll get a kick out of it.” He went over to help the others put out the fire. Mike looked at the coin and chuckled. Both sides were heads.


“By the way, Face, I forgot to say it before, but nice shot.”

“Thanks, Hannibal.” Face said, looking pleased. The whole team were in the van, hidden in trees near the Heinemann’s roadhouse. The brothers had gone straight there after the confrontation and told Al to close the place to other customers then told him to get out. The team had heard all this over the bug the brothers were still unaware of.

“Get me another whisky.” Jed’s voice was shaking. He’d already had three whiskys and there was no telling how big they’d been. The brothers had all also drunk several beers. It was almost ten o’clock.

“Seems he’s still a little upset about his truck.” Hannibal said. He grinned, picturing the explosion in his head again. Then he pulled himself together before he stepped over the line into gloating territory.

“They’re dead. Smith especially, I’ll kill him slow.” Jed sounded as if he was pacing up and down.

“We really gonna call the military?” That was Zeke. “You heard what Smith said. They know something.”

“They don’t know anything!” Jed snapped. “How the hell could they know anything?”

“I dunno, but I think Zeke’s right.” Aaron said. “My Maddie said that Linda from the beauty parlour said this fag from LA came in to get his nails buffed today.”

In the van Face gave a resigned sigh. Yep, should have known that was going to happen. He glared at Murdock’s grin.

“Is there any point to that bit of information, Aaron, or you just passing on gossip?” Jed demanded.

“I think it was one of them, one of Smith’s guys. Maddie says Linda said this guy was talking to her boss for ages. He must have been asking about the Chink, he must have been.” The team exchanged glances. BA checked the transmission was recording. If they said anything incriminating it would be taped.

“Shut up, Aaron. You got no idea if it was even one of them.” Zeke said.

“Well he was in town today. The fag looking one. Mama had a cup of coffee with him.”

They heard the sound of chairs scraping and toppling and Zeke shouting “Let him go, Jed!”

“You were planning on telling me this when?”

“I’m sorry, Jed,” Aaron gasped. “I forgot.”

“You forgot? What did she say to him?”

“I dunno, I dunno, I couldn’t hear!”

“Come on, Jed, let him go!” There was some scuffling, some silence for a few minutes then the scraping of chairs, presumably people sitting down.

“You were supposed to be looking after Mama today and you let her go talking to Smith’s people.”

“How could I stop her?” There was more silence. Then more chair scraping

“Where are you going, Jed?” Zeke called.

“The woods. I want to check, see if anyone’s been there.” Their voices faded out of range and a moment later the team saw them emerging from the bar apparently arguing. They crossed the road and went into the dense trees.

“Damn,” Hannibal said. “Grab your radios, we’d better follow.” They all took walkie-talkies and their handguns, got out of the van and hurried across the road to where the brothers had gone into the woods.

“Split up,” Hannibal ordered, “Pick up their trail.” It was dark now and the Heinemann’s had the advantage of being on local ground. On the other hand his team had the advantage of being sober. After a few minutes Face’s voice came through the radio.

“I think I’ve picked up their trail. I’ve found some footprints.”

“Are they the footprints of a gigantic hound?” Murdock’s question made Hannibal grin. The growl he heard over the walkie-talkie from BA made him grin even wider.

“Converge on Face’s position,” he ordered. In a moment they were all together and they began to follow the evidence of the Heinemann’s passage, which they’d made no attempt to conceal. Hannibal was on point. In a few moments he heard voices and turned to the team, put a finger to his lips and gestured to his men to spread out left and right.

In a moment they were all looking into a small clearing. Jed, carrying a whisky bottle, was rummaging around in the bushes and undergrowth. The other two were standing around not doing much, watching their brother and occasionally exchanging glances.

“There’s nothing here, Jed.” Zeke said. Jed ignored him.

Aaron looked around. “Which tree was it? I can’t even remember.”

Hidden in the undergrowth Hannibal unconsciously raised a hand to his throat.

“It was that one.” Zeke said, pointing at a large oak. He shook his head. “You could hardly stand up, no wonder you can’t remember.”

“Can you?” Aaron asked.

“Yeah. I… I dream about it sometimes,” Zeke said. “About… the noises he made.” He looked away then said. “Didn’t realise it would take so long, you know.”

Blood roared in Hannibal’s ears and he felt as if his brain was suddenly on fire. He took a calming breath, and then lifted his walkie-talkie very close to his mouth. He spoke very quietly.

“Anybody raising their weapon lower it right now. ” He paused for a beat. “Stay cool.” None of the team answered him. There was a sudden crash as Jed flung the now empty bottle against a tree.

“No one’s been here.” He said. “Those guys don’t know squat.” He started to walk into the trees. Aaron and Zeke grabbed him and steered him back in the right direction to head back towards the road. They passed no more than six feet from Hannibal’s position, entirely oblivious to his presence. The team followed them back to the roadhouse then got back into the van. The brother’s voices were coming through loud and clear again and being recorded. For another three hours the team listened to the Heinemann’s drink themselves into oblivion.

His men were so quiet Hannibal kept checking to see if they had fallen asleep. No one had spoken since they had come out of the woods. When the Heinemann’s had been quiet for nearly an hour Hannibal decided they were passed out.

“Take us back to the hotel, BA,” he said. BA started the van. “In the morning we’ll rent a couple of cars and stay on these guys wherever they go.”

“Right,” Murdock said. Face and BA didn’t answer.

“They’re ready,” Hannibal said. “They’re right on the edge now and one of them is going to crack.”

Chapter 8

“They lynched him?” Mike asked.

“That’s what it looks like,” Hannibal said. Their client looked sickened. They were standing around in the kitchen drinking coffee, grey morning light coming feebly through the blinds. Mike was still in pyjamas and a robe.

“What’s your next move, Colonel Smith?” Mike asked.

“In a way that’s up to you.” Hannibal said. “At this point I think there’s enough for you to call in the FBI or the state police to start an investigation. On the other hand you could let us finish the job. It’s up to you.” He held up a hand. “Don’t answer right away, think about it. But not for too long.”

“Alright.” Mike put his coffee cup on the bench. “I’d better go and get David out of bed.”

“Right. Oh, and BA will be driving David all the way to school and will pick him up from there later. For security. And I don’t want you to let him out on his own into town.”

Mike looked worried, but nodded. “Of course, thank you.” He left.

“Jeez, Hannibal, way to scare the poor guy.” Face said, when Mike was out of earshot.

“He has to know what we’re up against,” Hannibal said. “He’s got the kid to think about.”

“I know, but…” He shrugged. “Seems a lot to put on the guy that’s all.”

“Hannibal,” BA said. “You want me to stick with the kid at the school?”

Hannibal smiled at the image of David walking around school with BA as his personal bodyguard, but said. “No, he should be safe enough once he’s in school.” He checked his watch. “Okay, I know we’re all tired, but we have a full day ahead of us. Let’s get some breakfast and then get out there and stick with the brothers grim. Murdock make some more coffee. Make it strong.”


After BA had left with David Mike came up to Hannibal who was at the command post, watching the work crew from Bridgeport getting out of their van.

“Colonel, you want to nail these men, I can see that.” Mike said. “So go do it.” He held out his hand and Hannibal clasped it and shook it. Then Hannibal turned to Face and Murdock. “Let’s go guys.”

They picked up three rental cars. When they arrived at the roadhouse the severely hung over Heinemann’s were just staggering out into the morning light.

“Okay, I’ll take Jed,” Hannibal said, over the CB, “Murdock stick with Zeke, Face you’ve got Aaron. Keep in touch guys.”


“Well,” Face said “That’s…” he checked his watch, “nine hours of my life I’ll never get back.”

“Aaron stayed home all day, huh?” Hannibal said. The two of them were back at the hotel. It had been a long and tedious day. Hannibal had followed Jed all day, in the car and on foot. The man went home first, came back out in the early afternoon, drove into town in his sedan, made a couple of phone calls from a public call box, visited his mother for about an hour and then drove back to the road house to join his brothers.

Since the three brothers were now all in one place Hannibal had left Murdock down there on watch while he and Face came to check on things back at base. BA reported all was quiet. David was back home safely from school and seemed to be happy enough to stay in all evening watching TV.

“You think they’re growing some brains?” Face asked. “Think they’ve given up?”

“Nah,” Hannibal said. “They’re just too dumb to know what to do now. Probably once they’ve had a few drinks they’ll come up with their next move.”

“Which is guaranteed to be a stupid one, right?”

“Oh yeah.”


“Report, Murdock.”

“Some interesting stuff, Colonel.” Murdock’s voice crackled over the CB. “They’ve kept the place closed again, though some guy named Al is in there. They’ve been talking about how ‘Bob’ made sure there was nothing suspicious to find at ‘the Chink’s’ house. Dunno who Bob is.”

“Sheriff Heinemann is named Robert.” Mike said quietly, from behind Hannibal.

“Anything else?” Hannibal asked.

“They seem kind of subdued. They keep talking about not being sure if they should go ahead with it, think it’s too crazy. But they won’t explain what ‘it’ is.” Murdock sounded a little frustrated.

“Very inconsiderate of them. Okay, report in again in an hour, unless you have something for us before then. Stay awake.”

“Not easy, Colonel. These guys are dull with a capital duh. But they’ve just put a game on the TV. That might keep me from dozing off.”

Hannibal smiled. “Good. Out.” He put down the radio handset and turned to the others.

“So who wants to put money on ‘Bob’ being the sheriff?” Hannibal asked. Mike shook his head, looking disgusted.

“I guess that’s why the deputy didn’t find anything suspicious at Alan Chen’s house.” Face said. “Sheriff Bob had already been in and cleaned it out. Isn’t it nice to see family coming together to help each other out?”

“The deputy coulda been in on it too,” BA said. “If the sheriff is bad the whole department is probably gonna be bad.”

“A fish stinks from the head.” Hannibal observed. He yawned, checked his watch. It was after midnight. “We need to catch a little shuteye guys. Face take first watch. Stay alert. Whatever ‘it’ is I want to be ready for them trying it. One of us will have to go relieve Murdock in a few hours. He must be half asleep already.”


“Touchdown!” Murdock yelled, punching the air. “Go Cowboys! Yeah!” He rubbed his eyes, which felt gritty and heavy.

“I just love stakeouts.” He said, out loud, considering calling base, just to have someone to talk to. He ate a hard candy and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he crunched the sweet up. Nothing of note had come through the bug for ages, the brothers seemed to be wrapped up in the game. Murdock started fiddling with the CB.

“Hey, I wonder if I could raise Daisy Duke on this thing?” He grinned. Thinking about Daisy Duke occupied his attention for a few minutes.

“Coffee.” He said. “Give me coffee. I demand coffee. Where is my coffee?” He found the flask of coffee on the passenger seat. “Would you care for some coffee, Mr Murdock,” he offered himself, pouring out a cup. “Why thank you,” he answered in an English accent. “That would be splendid.” He sipped it, still too hot, put the cup on the dash. “Now I know I’ve got a candy bar in here somewhere. Where did I put it?” He rummaged around in a grocery bag on the seat beside him, come up empty handed in the chocolate department. “Another mystery for the Great Detective…” he bent down and felt around in the foot well in case it had fallen down there. No sign. “When you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Therefore I deduce I put it in the glove compartment.” It was in there. Murdock sat up, very pleased with his successful deduction. He looked out of the window.



Face heard doors opening, then in a moment the sound of a toilet flushing. He went to the door of the room, checked the corridor outside. Mike came out of the bathroom. He nodded to Face, headed back towards his bedroom. On the way he pushed open the door to David’s room to glance inside. Face went back into the command post, checked his watch as he did so. Murdock was overdue for his report, and Face wondered if he’d fallen asleep. He went to try to raise Murdock on the radio.

“Mr Peck! Lieutenant!” Mike ran into the room. He looked panicked. “Lieutenant, David is gone!”

Face pulled his handgun and ran to the boy’s room, easily outpacing Mike.

“Wake Hannibal and BA,” Face ordered as Mike followed him into the room. Mike turned and ran out. Face turned on the light and checked the room. No signs of a struggle. Well, no sign beyond the normal appearance of a teenager’s bedroom. Nothing broken anyway. The window was closed, but it slid open when Face tried it. Unlocked. He looked outside. A fire escape. He put his gun back in his shoulder holster as Hannibal and BA came into the room.

“Report.” Hannibal snapped.

“Kid’s gone. Out of the window and down the fire escape. He couldn’t have got past in the corridor without me hearing him”

“You’re sure?” Hannibal said.

“I haven’t been asleep if that’s what you mean.” Face said, sounding a little affronted.

Mike had followed Hannibal and BA into the room.

“Are you saying he sneaked out on his own?” He asked.

“Looks that way to me,” Face said.

“But why?”

“Colonel,” BA handed Hannibal a piece of paper he’d found on the nightstand. It was pink and it smelled of flowers.

“Damn.” Hannibal said. He read out what was written on the paper. “‘Dear David, I’m writing to say I really hate what my father and uncles are doing to your father. I really, really like you and I want to see you, but it will have to be in secret. Meet me tonight in the parking lot behind the theatre at two a.m. I’ll have to sneak out. I know a place we can go to talk. Please be there, I really, really want to see you. Love, Debbie.’ She must have handed this to him at school. Jed must have called her there. Classy, Jed. Using your own daughter as a honey trap.”

“No,” Mike said, shaking his head. “My David is a smart boy, he wouldn’t fall for something that obvious.”

“He’s fourteen,” said Face, “Kid that age, he’s a walking har… ah… hu… hormone factory. I mean, ‘A place we can talk’? If he didn’t fall for that I’d be worried about him.”

“He has a point,” Hannibal said. He frowned. “Why hasn’t Murdock called in? It’s after two now. If they were going to grab David at the parking lot they must have headed over there by now.”

“He’s overdue, I was just about to call him.” Face said. He ran out of the room.

“Colonel,” Mike looked up at Hannibal. His eyes were stricken. “You think they’ve got my boy?”

“If they have we’ll get him back.” Hannibal promised him. “I mean that. Nothing bad will happen to him.” He hoped to god he could keep that promise.

“Murdock. Murdock, come in. Come in, Murdock.” Face was sounding a little frantic Hannibal thought as he came into the room. BA stood beside the Lieutenant, a deep frown on his face. Eventually he pushed Face to one side and fiddled with the radio for a while.

“Come on, fool, where are you?” He looked up at Hannibal. “It’s definitely working. He just ain’t there.”

“Okay, leave it, get your…” He stopped as they heard the sound of a phone ringing. Mike ran from the room. The phone was in his living room, just down the corridor. He ran in without turning on the light, picked up the phone.

“Hello… Yes, it’s me… Jed, you bastard, where’s my boy?” The others came into the room, switching on the light. “If you’ve hurt him, I’ll kill you.” There was a pause as he listened, and then his face went hard, his eyes steely. “How tall do I have to be to use a gun, Jed?” He listened again then he held out the phone to Hannibal. “He wants to talk to you.”

Hannibal took the phone. “Yeah, Smith here.”

“Smith, I’ve got the boy and I’ve got your man.” Jed laughed. “Seems like I’m holding a winning hand here, don’t it. Two aces. Gotta admit I only expected the kid. It was real nice of you to send me your man as a little extra leverage. Though how do you stand that guy? What is he, nuts? He never shuts up. Well he did shut up eventually, Zeke got a little tired of him…”

“What do you want, Jed?” Hannibal demanded.

“Same as always. Harper leaves. Tonight. Though before he goes he can sign the hotel over to us. Consider it damages, for the truck.”

“And us?”

“If you give me what I want you guys can go. See, I’m not being unreasonable am I? Parking lot behind the theatre. I want to see all of you, including the midget. Fifteen minutes. Don’t be late or the nutball gets it first.” He hung up.

Hannibal looked around at the others. “Let’s go, we don’t have much time.”

Within a minute they were in the van and heading out. Hannibal was rummaging in the back.

“What’s the plan, Hannibal?” Face asked. Hannibal came back to the front, holding a small black box. He flicked a switch on it and a red light began to blink.

“Jed is pretty pleased with himself that he has a couple of aces in his hand. What he doesn’t know is that one of those cards is marked.”

Chapter 9

“See, your mistake was, Zeke, you got too close.”

Hannibal grinned down at Zeke and Aaron who were lying untidily on the ground in the movie theatre parking lot. Zeke had wandered a little too close to BA who had knocked down and disarmed him in two seconds flat. Aaron had turned to go to his brother’s aid and Face had taken him out with a lightning fast kick. Aaron was now lying huddled in a ball of misery, rubbing unmentionable parts of himself. Or possibly, thought Hannibal, not rubbing but counting.

“Always stay at least arms length away.” Hannibal went on. “Just a little tip there.” He cocked his handgun and pointed it at Zeke. “Now where’s your brother hiding?”

“He’s with your man and the kid, I ain’t telling you where.”

“You’ll tell us,” Mike said. “Now, you bastard!” He was pale and furious.

“What you gonna do?” Zeke sneered, “Head butt me in the knee?”

“You’re already on the ground, Zeke. I can kick you in the head no trouble.”

“Easy, Mike.” Hannibal said, putting a hand on the man’s shoulder. “I know you’re worried about David, but try to keep a cool head. And we can find them. Remember the bug.”

Mike calmed himself. Hannibal had explained he had pinned a bug under the collar of David’s jacket, as extra security. And thankfully the night was cool enough that the boy had worn the jacket when he sneaked out earlier.

“Okay, cuff these clowns and put them in the van,” Hannibal ordered. Face and BA quickly obeyed. Zeke and Aaron were soon restrained in the back. Face covered them while Hannibal used the receiver to get a fix on the bug again. “Turn left out of here, BA.”

It was soon clear where they were heading. Up the opposite side of the valley from the hotel, towards a large old-fashioned house.

“Oh, really classy, boys,” Hannibal said, looking at the brothers. “You’ve got them hidden at your mother’s place? You know that makes her an accessory, don’t you? You know she could do federal time for that?”

“And I don’t think they serve chamomile tea in jail.” Face said.

Zeke and Aaron looked at each other, shook their heads a little.

“An accessory?” Zeke said. “Shit, you guys really are as dumb as you look.”


“I am so going to have to take up yoga.” Murdock muttered as he contorted himself painfully in order to try and bring his bound hands from behind his back to in front of him. “Ow, ow, ow, ow.” The soles of his shoes scraped at the skin of his wrists. He gave a final wrench and fell down on his back, but with his hands now in front of him. “Like to see the mudsucker manage that,” he said, grinning. Of course, he thought, BA would probably just snap the ropes, but that was cheating. He lay for a moment. His head was still very painful where Zeke had expressed his impatience. Then he took a deep breath and struggled up to his feet. The ropes were very securely tied around his wrists. Jed knew his knots. Must have been a boy scout. Either that or he had a lot of experience tying people up, which was a thought Murdock didn’t want to dwell on too much.

He was in the dark, the air smelt musty. He guessed he was in a cellar, could remembered being dragged semi-conscious down some steps and through a door. Moving cautiously he found the wall with his outstretched hands. He followed it around, feeling his way. A couple of times he bumped into things and cursed. He found what felt like a door. Sweeping his hands around the wall on each side of the door Murdock found what he’d been searching for. The light switch. He flicked it and closed his eyes for a moment, dazzled. When he opened them again he found his speculation was correct, he was in a cellar. The door he’d just found was locked. He guessed it was the one he’d come through, as this room had no stairs up into the house. There were cardboard boxes stacked against the walls and in a corner three suitcases. More promisingly there was a hatch that looked as if it led to the outside.

The hatch was too high to reach though. He checked the cardboard cartons, to see if they were strong enough to be stacked up for him to stand on. They were dry, despite the dampness of the cellar. They were standing on a sheet of plastic. Murdock guessed they hadn’t been there for long. He examined them curiously. Some of them were still sealed and according to the boxes, were paper. He wrestled one open. Yes, reams of blank white paper. Others were unsealed though, or resealed with tape. Murdock opened one of those. They also contained paper, but it wasn’t blank. It was made into small booklets. The first one Murdock picked up had an illustration on the front that made him feel a little queasy. He flicked through it and what he read made him feel a lot queasier.


“Mama,” Jed said, “Mama…” He hesitated. “I can’t… I can’t let you do this.” He flinched as his mother whipped around to face him.

“What did you say?” Grace snapped.

“Mama, he’s… he’s just a kid. You can’t.”

“You know what he is,” she said, in a cold voice. Then her voice became mocking. “You want Harper in the family I suppose? You’ve seen the gypsy brat looking at Deborah. How long do you think it will be before it’s more than looking? His sort start breeding early you know. What will you do when the midget comes around for Thanksgiving dinner? Seat him at the children’s table?”

Jed shook his head, impatient. “I didn’t say I wanted the kid to marry Debbie. Please just listen to me.”

“I’ve listened to enough of your pathetic whining.” She turned back to the tray she had on the kitchen bench in front of her. She poured sugar into a jug of lemonade. “What’s wrong with you, Jedediah? Your father raised you to be strong. You’ve gone soft.” There was contempt in her voice. Jed hung his head.

” I try to be strong, Mama, I really do. But, I don’t know how dad could do it. Just do it and never feel it. Never have a moment of regret.”

“Are you going to start whining about that dentist again?” Grace finished stirring in the sugar and then reached into her pocket and took out a small brown bottle. She dripped a little of its contents into the jug then carefully stopped it again and put it back into her pocket. She opened a cupboard, put a glass onto the tray. Then she opened a drawer and took out a pistol. She handed it to her son.

“I will deal with the boy. You will dispose of the man you put in the cellar.” Jed’s eyes went wide. Grace made her voice a little softer. “I’ll help you clean up afterwards.” She reached up and touched his face gently. “Can you do this for me, darling?”

“Mama…” He looked down at the gun in his hand. “I’ll try.”

She patted his face, and then picked a piece of fluff off his lapel. “Good boy.” Jed went out of the room. Grace picked up the tray and left through the other door.


Murdock had stacked boxes up to allow him to reach the hatch. He could have used the suitcases too, but now he had examined them and knew who they had belonged to he felt it was disrespectful to touch them. Climbing up the boxes he wondered how he was actually going to get the doors open. He muttered, “Why can’t I just say ‘open sesame’?” The hatch doors opened and Murdock fell back down off the boxes, landing on his behind. He stared up at Face’s relieved smile.

“What you doing on the floor, fool?” BA’s voice came from behind Face and made Murdock grin.

“‘Open sesame’ actually works. Who knew?” Murdock said, getting up as the others climbed down.

“Where’s David?” Mike asked at once.

“David?” Murdock said. “They got the kid? Oh man! I’m sorry; I haven’t seen him.”

Hannibal climbed into the cellar. “Report, Captain.”

“They sneaked up on me at the roadhouse, Colonel,” Murdock said, as BA got him untied, his strong hands making short work of the ropes. “I’m sorry, they must have spotted me and came at me from a back door.”

“Okay. Anything useful here?”

Murdock pointed over at the suitcases in the corner. “Those are Alan Chen’s clothes and other belongings. I didn’t mess with them too much, hopefully they have the sheriffs fingerprints all over them.”

“You don’t suppose Dr Chen is…” Face pointed down at the ground. The five men looked down then simultaneously took a step backwards towards the walls. Then Hannibal pulled himself together. “If he is the FBI will find him. Anything else, Murdock?”

“Oh, yes.” Murdock said. He reached into one of the boxes handed Hannibal a booklet and watched his face go hard as he looked at it. “These boxes are full of that kind of thing, anti-Semitism, eugenics, racial purity, all that crap. It’s really nasty stuff, Hannibal.” He waved a hand at the boxes. “I think this lot was just waiting for dispatch. I’ll bet they’ve got a printing press around here somewhere. These guys aren’t just small town bigots, they’re in the bigotry business.”

“Hate on an industrial scale.” Face said. He picked a pamphlet out of a box, scanned it and quickly dropped it back in and unconsciously wiped his hand on his jacket. BA didn’t look at any of the material. He could guess what it was like.

“The FBI are gonna love these guys’ mailing list.” Murdock said. “We’re talking full on white supremacists.”

“Don’t call them that.” Hannibal said. His voice was quiet. And very very cold. “That’s what they call themselves. They think it makes them sound like something original. There’s nothing original here. So there’s no need to use a new term. We know what these people are.” He looked at the booklet he held. It had a swastika on the front. “Nazis.”


David jumped as he heard the door of the windowless room he was trapped in being unlocked. He grabbed at the nearest thing that came to hand, a vase. But it was not Jed coming in as he’d expected. Instead it was Grace Heinemann. She put down the tray she was carrying and looked out of the door, then closed and locked it again.

“Mrs Heinemann!” David cried, putting down the vase. “You have to let me out of here! Your sons kidnapped me!”

“Shh!” She said, sounding panicked. “I know, I know. I’m so sorry. Did they hurt you?”

David rubbed his shoulder, which had been wrenched a little when the men had grabbed him. “Not really, I’m okay. But you have to let me out!” He saw her put the key of the door into her pocket. She was a tiny woman, he knew he could probably take it from her, but was reluctant to frighten the old lady.

“No, David, it’s too dangerous. My sons are in the house. But you’re safe in here now. I have the only key.” She patted her pocket. “I’ve called your father. He and his friends are coming here now.” She wrung her hands. “I hope there won’t be too much trouble when they get here. I don’t want my boys hurt, but what else could I do?” David didn’t like he idea of his father being involved in a fight, but he was sure the A-Team would take care of everything. His knees sagged a little with relief and he sat down on a sofa.

“We’ll be safe in here. We just have to wait.” Grace said. David was still pretty agitated and he got to his feet again, paced about. “Please, David, my dear, sit down, you make me nervous. Oh…” She said brightly, “I made some lemonade for you, are you thirsty?”

“I… yes, actually,” David said. His mind was hardly on lemonade right now, but fear was making his mouth dry.

“Here,” she went to the table where she had put down the tray and poured a glass of lemonade, held it out to him. “I hope there’s enough sugar in it.” David took the glass began to raise it.

The door smashed open, half off its hinges. Jed leapt into the room, ran straight at David and dashed the glass from his hand. He grabbed the boy by the arm and started to drag him out of the room. David yelled and struggled wildly.

“Shut up!” Jed snarled.

“No! No! Jed, what are you doing?” Grace cried, running after them.

“It’s not happening, Mama, it’s… Ow! Don’t you bite me, you little bastard!” Jed, dragging David towards the front door, cuffed the struggling boy across the head. “I’m trying to save you, you stupid brat!” Grace had followed, but then turned and ran back.

Jed had almost reached the front door when to his left the door to the cellar opened. He expected Murdock to emerge. Instead Face came through, quickly followed by the rest of the team. Face took in the scene at a glance and moved fast. He saw Jed was reaching for the gun he had tucked into his waistband and ran at him, locked his hands together and gave Jed a double handed punch on the jaw with all his weight behind it. Jed went down like a bag of rocks. Face pulled David away; shoving the boy behind himself, then bent down and disarmed Jed. He turned back to the others who were watching him, impressed.

“Nice, Face.” Hannibal said.

“Davie!” Mike, who Hannibal had told to hang back, emerged from the cellar and ran to his son. David dropped to his knees and hugged his father.

“Dad!” He let the use of ‘Davie’ go this time.

“Tie Jed up, Face.” Hannibal ordered, “Murdock, find the old lady.”

“Are you hurt?” Mike said, breaking the hug after a moment, checking David over.

“No, I’m fine.”

“BA, get the civilians out of here,” Hannibal said. “Take them to the van.” BA was about to obey when Murdock reappeared, walking backwards.

“Er, Colonel, we have a small problem,” he said. Grace followed him down the hall, holding a handgun on him.

“All of you, put your weapons on the ground.” She said.

“Lady,” Hannibal said. “That only works if we really believe you’ll shoot us.”

“You don’t believe I’ll kill you?” Grace arched an eyebrow.

“Believe her.” It was Jed’s voice. He was still on the floor and tied up now. “She’ll do it.”

“Be quiet, you.” Grace snapped. “You are no longer my son.” She turned to Hannibal. “Where are Ezekiel and Aaron?”

“Safe.” Hannibal said. They were handcuffed to a telephone pole about a half-mile down the road, with no pants on, but he didn’t feel the need to go into that much detail. “Come on, Mrs Heinemann, put the gun down, it’s all over.”

“He’s right, Mama,” Jed said, unexpectedly backing up Hannibal. “It can be over now, please let it be over.” She stared down at him. All her attention was on him and Hannibal caught BA’s eye, gave a tiny nod. BA began to edge to the left.

“You want it to be over, Jedediah?” Grace asked. “Very well, don’t let it be said I don’t give my boys what they want.”

She fired. Hannibal saw it coming, saw her change the angle of the gun. He grabbed Jed’s shoulder and pulled him to one side. The bullet passed so close that Jed felt its passage, before it buried itself in the floorboards.

Grace staggered back, knocked off balance by the recoil. BA leapt, knocked the gun from her hand and grabbed her around the waist, picking her up bodily. She began to scream and curse. BA blushed at the profanities that came from the mouth of the fragile looking woman. Then he stopped blushing and flushed with anger instead as she yelled at Hannibal, “Get this nigger’s hands off me!”

Hannibal ignored her, turned away, knew BA could handle her. He needed to get Mike and David back to safety, he needed to get Jed and Grace secured and he needed to get outside authorities in here. He was trying to decide how to arrange all this, when Grace’s screaming abruptly stopped. Hannibal was grateful for that for a second, before he heard BA call his name in a tone he very rarely heard from the sergeant. Fear.

“Hannibal!” BA called again, as the colonel turned. BA had dropped Grace. She was scrambling to her feet. Hannibal saw a glint of steel in her hand. BA was clutching his side. Bright red blood spilled over his fingers. As Grace ran BA fell to his knees then pitched forward onto his face.

Chapter 10

“Face, get after her! Be careful!”

As Face set off in pursuit Hannibal and Murdock leapt to BA’s side and turned him over. He was semi-conscious, sweating, shaking. Hannibal pressed his hands over the wound. Blood seeped between his fingers. Murdock started to tear away BA’s shirt to make a bandage. Hannibal looked up at Mike and David. Mike looked scared and helpless. David had his hands over his mouth and tears on his face.

“He’ll be okay, kid.” Hannibal said, trying to be reassuring. “We need to get him to the van, Murdock.” Murdock nodded. He handed Hannibal a folded up pad of cloth, which Hannibal pressed over the wound. “Mike, can you…” No dammit, he couldn’t, Hannibal had been going to ask him to bring the van as close to the door as possible. “Come here and help Murdock, I’ll get the van.” Mike took Hannibal’s place and the colonel ran outside. The van was a couple of hundred yards down the drive, he backed it up fast and opened the rear doors, ran into the house. As he ran back inside a gunshot sounded from somewhere in the house. Murdock looked up wildly.

“Face.” Hannibal gasped. He tried his walkie-talkie. “Come in, Face.” No answer. Hannibal resisted the urge to yell Face’s name.

“Come on,” between the four of them they managed to manhandle BA into the back of the van. “Get him to the doctor in town,” Hannibal said, “We’ll follow soon.” Murdock nodded tensely. He took the wheel. Mike was in the back pressing the pad over the wound. David sat beside BA holding his hand. Hannibal slammed the doors and the van took off fast.

Hannibal ran back inside. The tied up Jed was still sitting in the hallway. He didn’t appear inclined to make a break for it. Even so Hannibal ripped off Jed’s belt and used it to secure the man’s bound hands to the banisters. Then he drew his gun. He tried the walkie-talkie once more.

“Face, come in.” No response. “Face if you can hear me, I’m coming.”

“Smith!” Jed called as Hannibal started to move out. “Smith. Please don’t hurt her. She’s not… well.”

“That’s an understatement.” Hannibal snarled. “Don’t move, Jed. I’ll be back for you.” Hannibal headed in what he hoped was the direction he’d heard the gunshot come from. He climbed stairs and come out into a corridor. At the end he could see a set of folding steps into a loft had been pulled down. A dark open hatch tempted him.

“Hannibal!” Face hissed from an alcove about half way up the corridor. Hannibal felt the terror that had been gripping his heart lessen a little. He ran quickly to join Face.

“She’s in the loft?”

“Yeah. How’s BA?”

“On his way to the doctor’s. Does she have a gun?” Hannibal asked, thinking of the shot he’d heard.

“I suspect she has plenty,” Face said. At Hannibal’s questioning look he elaborated, “Lunatic 101, Hannibal. Stockpile a large arsenal of weapons ready for the day the FBI kicks down the door.”

“Good point.” He looked thoughtful for a few minutes, and then said. “Come on.” He moved out of the alcove and towards the loft hatch, staying against the wall on the way. Face sputtered a protest then followed him.

“Are you crazy Hannibal? She can hold us off all night from that position.”

“I’ve got better things to do tonight.” Hannibal said. To Face’s horror he shouted out, “Say goodnight to the folks, Gracie,” in a mocking tone.

“Oh great now she knows exactly…” Face fell down as Hannibal pushed him back. Automatic fire stitched the floor in front of them, inches from their feet. Hannibal heard the sound he’d expected, a cry of pain. An AK47 fell out of the loft hatch and bounced down the steps. Hannibal ran. He was up the steps before the rifle hit the floor.

“No, Hannibal!” Face cried, scrambling up and going after him. But there was no more gunfire. When Face reached the loft he found Hannibal had Grace restrained, her arms pinned by her sides.

“You’re nuts, Hannibal!” Face protested, “Nuts!”

Hannibal shrugged. “I knew she couldn’t control the recoil. When she fired that handgun at Jed it nearly knocked her down.” Grace struggled ineffectually in his arms. “Get something to tie her up. And check her for that knife.”

“She already threw that at me.” Face said. “She missed.” He found the light switch and flicked it. The two men stared around at the walls, which were, as Face had predicted, lined with weapons. Automatic rifles and handguns neat and ready in racks. But even that wasn’t the most arresting site. That distinction belonged to the large portrait in a place of honour on the far wall. It was of a man that Hannibal guessed was the late Nathaniel Heinemann. He bore a distinct resemblance to Jed. The man was posing proudly in full Ku Klux Klan regalia. Face shuddered and turned away from the picture.

“Hannibal, I have to get the hell out of this house. It’s starting to seriously freak me out.” He frisked Grace then bound her hands behind her back with his tie.

“Okay, get out of here and find out what’s happening with BA. They should be at the doctor’s by now. Find the number and call. I can manage this one.” Grace was quiet and had stopped struggling. Even so Hannibal kept a very close eye on her. Face gave him an ‘are you sure?’ look. “Go.” Hannibal said.

Face ran. He was back at the front door in under a minute. He found the telephone in the hallway and turned to Jed.

“Tell me the name of the nearest doctor.” He demanded. “If you have the number too I may decide not to break both your legs.” Jed looked cowed, remembering the hefty punch that Face had taken him down with before. He gave Face a number, which Face dialed and waited impatiently as it rang several time. At last it was answered.


“Mike? Is that you?”

“Face? Are you and Hannibal okay?”

“Yeah, how’s BA?”

“The doctor is stitching the stab wound closed now. He said it was superficial, no vital organs punctured, but he said BA had lost a lot of blood. He’s going to give him a blood transfusion, direct from Murdock. I think BA’s delirious, he keeps saying not to put Murdock’s blood in him again.”

Face almost grinned. “Okay, I’m going to get there soon, you just…”

“Face,” Mike interrupted him. His voice had gone strange, sort of tight. “The sheriff just walked in. He’s pointing a gun at me. He wants me to put the phone down…” His voice faded and Face was suddenly listening to a dial tone.

“Mike!” He yelled. “Damn, damn, damn.” He pulled his handgun pointed it at Jed. “You’re going to tell me where the doctor lives, then you’re going to give me your car keys.”

“Doc Cameron lives on Oak Tree Avenue, off Main Street.” Jed told him, his eyes fixed on the gun.

“Right. Keys!” He cocked the gun.

“I don’t have them!” Jed cried. “Zeke took my car when they went to pick you guys up.”

“Are there any vehicles here at all?” Face asked, a sinking feeling in his gut.

“No, none.”

“Dammit!” Face flicked on his walkie-talkie. “Hannibal, come in. Hannibal, come in! God dammit all to hell!” He shook the radio. “God damn piece of cheap Japanese crap!” He shoved the unresponsive walkie-talkie in his pocket and pointed his gun at Jed again.

“Tell him where I went!” Face ran out into the night. It had started to rain.


Hannibal finished tying Grace’s ankles with some rope he’d found in the attic.

“Comfy?” He asked.

“Gloat all you like, Smith.” Grace said. “Someone else will take our place. We will win in the end.”

“Shut up.”

“It’s hard for someone like you to hear the truth isn’t it?” He didn’t respond. But she didn’t need any encouragement. “A race traitor.” He looked up sharply at that.

“A man like you, a warrior, you should be fighting for your race. Instead you run around with a papist, a mental defective and a nigger.”

“You really don’t want to use that word around me. You know which one I mean.” He was restraining the anger that simmered inside him. He couldn’t let her make him lose his temper. Couldn’t let her get to him. “I’m going to pick you up, carry you over my shoulder. Don’t struggle and you won’t get hurt.” She let him lift her up. He hoped she would stop talking as he carefully made his way down the loft steps, but no such luck.

“And you spend your time helping the weak against the strong. Like that freak and his filthy gypsy’s brat. You are a fool. The weak are meant to go to the wall. It’s the way of nature. Haven’t you read Darwin?”

“Lady,” Hannibal said. “If Darwin were here he’d kick your ass too. Now shut the hell up. Save it for the FBI.” He reached the bottom of the ladder and headed along the corridor.

“FBI,” Grace sneered. “Do you think I believe you will call them? I know you’re a fugitive, Smith. You can no more afford to bring in the FBI than I can.”

“I’ll work something out. And Grace, believe this, if my man dies I’ll hand myself over to any law enforcement agency that wants me if it means I get to give evidence that will put you in the gas chamber.” She went quiet for a moment, stilled by the seriousness of his voice.

Eventually she spoke again. “You waste your loyalty on a sub-human.”

“Don’t make me gag you, bitch.” It came out like a whiplash and he regretted letting her needle him. But it seemed to have the effect of finally shutting her up. He reached the hallway without having to listen to any more of her poison. Carefully he lowered her from his shoulder and sat her on the bottom of the stairs. He’d brought extra rope with him and secured her hands to the banister.

“Mama, you okay?” Jed asked, craning round to look at her.

“Don’t you speak to me, worm.” Her voice was as cold as ice. Jed flinched and turned away from her.

“Well, Jed, poker isn’t your game and sure as hell Happy Families isn’t either.” Hannibal said. “Where did Face go?”

“He followed the others to the doctor’s to check on the nigger.”

Hannibal snapped then. It had been building all night and he reached the end of his patience. He grabbed Jed around the throat. Jed gasped.

“Don’t ever use that word in my presence again, you understand me? You understand?” Jed’s eyes were huge with terror.

“Yes, sir!” Jed choked out. Hannibal let him go. Tried to get hold of himself.

“In fact don’t use it again ever.”

“No, sir.” Jed said. Hannibal saw Grace staring with contempt at the broken man her eldest son had become. “What’s the doctor’s phone number?” Hannibal asked. Jed quickly reeled it off and Hannibal dialed. The phone rang. And rang.


“Don’t touch it!” Sheriff Heinemann snapped at Mike when he made an instinctive move towards the ringing phone.

“Sheriff, are you going to stand there all night?” Mike asked.

“Shut up,” the Sheriff snapped. “I’m thinking!” His gun was trembling in his hands.

“You should be running.” Mike said. “It’s all over.” He glanced over at a closed door. BA and Murdock were in there with the doctor. He wondered how long it would be before Murdock came out of there. Then he heard a tiny gasp from David who was standing beside him. Mike glanced in the direction David was looking and carefully didn’t stare or do anything to attract the sheriff’s attention that way. Through glass panels in the door Mike could see Face. Their gazes locked. Face mouthed something. Mike guessed it was that he should keep the sheriff’s attention away from the door.

“David, stand behind me.” Mike said.

David seemed to have got Face’s message too.

“Er, Dad, that’s only going to help if he’s specifically planning on shooting me in the legs.”

“Watch your tongue, lad. You’re not too big for a clip round the ear.”

“Should I wait here while you get your stepladder?”

The sheriff was staring at them, unsure of what to make of this exchange. Then the door behind him opened. A gust of wind blew in and Face with it. The sheriff spun around, turning his gun on Face. Mike could see that Face wasn’t close enough to make it before the sheriff could fire. He ran at Heinemann, tackled him around the legs. The sheriff toppled, swearing and Face was on him in an instant. He kicked the gun from Heinemann’s hand and punched him on the jaw. The sheriff slumped, dazed.

“Thanks, Mike.” Face said. Mike nodded at him then stood over Sheriff Heinemann. A burst of fury overwhelmed him suddenly.

“They killed a man,” he shouted at Heinemann. “They murdered a man and you covered it up!” He reached down and grabbed the sheriff’s badge, ripped it off his shirt. “You don’t get to wear this a minute longer!” He held it out behind him. “Look after this, son.” David took the badge.

Face found the sheriff’s cuffs and dragged him over to a radiator to secure him to it. “Where’s BA and Murdock?”

“In there.” Mike pointed at the closed door. Face ran to it and burst through. A middle aged man stared up at him, shocked. He was bending over BA. Murdock lay on a table beside BA, hooked up to tubes. He looked up at Face and smiled with delight.

“Hi, Face.” Murdock said. “Why do you have twigs in your hair?” Face winced, reached up and pulled the twigs out. He had decided it was much faster to go cross-country than stick to the road. Since it was a very dark night this meant he’d become intimately acquainted with every ditch and puddle between here and Grace Heinemann’s home. Not to mention being chased by dogs and putting his foot into unexpected rabbit holes. His clothes were covered in mud and grass stains and his face and hands were scratched and grazed.

“How’s BA?” Face asked.

The doctor stopped staring and finally managed to speak.

“He lost a lot of blood, but I think he’ll be alright. He should probably get more blood. He should be in a hospital.”

The phone rang. Face hurried out to answer it.

“Hannibal! What’s happening? Right… The doc says he’ll be okay… You have? When will they get here? That soon? Right… Right… see you soon.” He put down the phone. Murdock was emerging from the other room holding a cotton wool ball onto his arm. “Murdock, Hannibal called the FBI. They’ll be here any time now. We need to get out of here. Have the doctor help you get BA into the van.” Murdock ran back into the room he’d just emerged from. Face turned to Mike and David, who were looking a little baffled by the speed of events.

“Mike, we have to be gone before the feds arrive. You’ll show them everything? Don’t forget about Zeke and Aaron. You remember where we left them?”

“Of course. But you can’t just go…”

“‘fraid we have to.” Murdock and the doctor came out, carrying BA between them. The doctor was protesting that BA shouldn’t be moved and that Murdock should be lying down for at least twenty minutes.

“It’s okay, doc, we have juice and cookies in the van.” Murdock quipped, but he looked very shaky. BA looked worse, grey and sick and Face grimaced at the sight of him. He followed them out to the van where they slid BA into the back. Murdock climbed in after him, he waved to Mike and David who had followed them out, then pulled the door closed.

“Don’t worry,” Face said. “We’ll be back in a few days.” He smiled. “After all we didn’t get paid yet.” He winked and Mike grinned back. Face got into the van; he waved and then sped away up the road.

Mike, David and Doctor Cameron watched until the van was out of sight.

“Who on earth were they?” The doctor asked.

“The coolest guys ever.” David said.

“Yeah,” Mike said. “Pretty cool.” He grinned. “For tall bastards.”



Face pulled up halfway up the hill and Hannibal jumped into the van.

“The FBI were just arriving, so I made a break for it.” As Face pulled away Hannibal looked into the back of the van. BA and Murdock looked back at him. “How’s it going, Sergeant?”

“He put the fool’s blood in me. I got the fool’s blood in me again.” He scowled. “This time I’m really gonna go crazy.” Hannibal smiled. Clearly feeling better.

“Mike and the kid okay?” Hannibal asked Face.

“Yeah.” Face said. “We got the sheriff, so that’s the full set. The Feds got here fast.”

“Yeah, by chopper. The words ‘large cache of automatic weapons’ seemed to gee them up a bit.” Hannibal looked a little closer at Face, taking in his disheveled appearance. “You look as if you’ve been ridden hard and put away wet.”

“American slang is so expressive sometimes.” Murdock said happily in his Holmes voice.

“Oh do I?” Face asked haughtily. “That could be because I’ve been running half way across town. Again. In the rain. Again. And in the dark this time. Do you know how many falls I took? I’m lucky I didn’t break a leg…”

Hannibal settled back in his seat and lit a cigar. He let Face’s complaints wash over him. From the back he could hear Murdock gently teasing BA and BA’s growling response, though that was a lot weaker than usual. He picked up the phone and dialed from memory.

“Amy, sorry to call you in the middle of the night. Just wanted to give you the heads-up. This story is about to break; you might want to get out here. Now you got a pen? Let me give you the inside track…”

Chapter 11

A brown sedan came barrelling up the drive to the hotel. It screeched to a halt. David was skateboarding outside. His cautious look at the car changed to an expression of delight when the A-Team got out. He skated up to them as they hurried towards the door and almost fell off his board into BA’s arms.

“BA! You’re okay!”

“Yeah, I’m fine, little brother. What you done to yourself?” He frowned at a plaster cast on David’s arm.

“You been trying to win bets with that trick dime?” Hannibal asked, grinning.

“No!” David protested, grinning back. “I came off my board, a couple of days after you left. Broke my wrist.”

“Your dad inside?” Hannibal asked, continuing on towards the door. “We can’t hang around. Lynch is on our tail.”

“Oh he came round here a few days ago. Got all heavy with my dad. And he wouldn’t sign my cast. What a dork.”

They went inside. Mike was in the lobby talking to a red haired woman. Hannibal froze for a second, fearing she was a fed, but relaxed when Face said, sounding a little awkward, “Ah, hi, Patricia.”

“Oh hello, Templeton.” She said, frowning a little. “If that’s your real name.”

“It is, but call me Face.”

“Hi guys,” Mike said, “I’ve got your money ready for you.”

“Great. And we left a few things behind,” Hannibal said. “Lynch didn’t confiscate them did he?”

“No, I hid them, let me show you…”

“Well,” Patricia said. “You’re busy, I’ll leave you to it.” She shook his hand smiling warmly, and then turned to the team. “You didn’t really know Alan at all did you, Face?”

“I’m sorry I had to lie,” he said with genuine regret. “It was for a good cause.”

“I know. Thank you for what you did, all of you. I was just telling Mike that I’ve asked if I can organise Alan’s funeral when they release his … remains. He hasn’t any family. And I want it to be a big funeral, ostentatious even.” She gave a weak smile. “Alan would probably hate that. But I don’t want people to be allowed to forget what was done to him. What this town, all of us, allowed to happen to him.”

“That’s good, Patricia,” Hannibal said. “I hope the Feds let you do it.” She left, saying goodbye in a voice that was wavering a little.

“She’s cute.” Murdock commented, glancing at Mike.

“She’s really nice,” Face said. “Single parent too,” he added, giving Mike a meaningful look.

“What is this?” Mike asked, amused. “The A-Team dating agency?”

“Well, we’d love to stick around and chat all day,” Hannibal said. “But it won’t take Lynch much longer to get his cars out of that mud hole…”

“This way.” Mike showed them a linen hamper that had their gear hidden in it. They started to unpack it and carry things out to the car. Hannibal ticked it all off a mental checklist, came up short.

“One more thing. The bug on David’s jacket.”

“I forgot about that!” Mike said, he took Hannibal back to the lobby and pointed out the denim jacket on some coat hooks. Hannibal lifted the collar, uncovering the transmitter pinned underneath.

“I don’t suppose…” Mike smiled. “I don’t suppose you’d consider leaving it on and giving me the thing to track it?”

“Every parent’s dream, huh?” Hannibal said. “Sorry, Mike, wouldn’t be fair on the boy. Don’t worry,” he said, reassuringly. “He’s a good kid. He’ll be fine. Though you should probably have some very serious talks about girls with him. Very soon.”

Mike nodded. “Yes, I already have actually. Him falling for that note made me realise he’s maybe a little more advanced in that area than I thought.”

“Time flies, huh?” Hannibal noticed something pinned to the jacket that made him smile. “He’s still got the Sheriff’s badge?”

“I think he wants to keep it as a souvenir.”

“Spoils of battle.” Hannibal said. “Fair enough.” The rest of the team and David passed them carrying boxes. Hannibal and Mike followed the others outside, watched them loading the car.

“You’ll always be welcome back here.” Mike said. “And if you ever need a place to stay,” he waved a hand behind him, “I’ve got plenty of spare rooms.”

“Not too many spare I hope, or Face will be very unhappy.” Hannibal lit a cigar. “Yeah, we’ll be back one day. We’ll come and campaign for you when you’re running for mayor.”

Mike looked up at Hannibal in surprise. “Mayor? Where on earth did that come from?”

Hannibal shrugged. “I just have this feeling you’re going to be a big man in this town.” He paused. “Metaphorically,” he added, looking down with a teasing smile. Mike gave him a wry smile in return.

“I don’t know,” Mike said, going serious, looked out over Lucasville. “There’s still a lot of prejudiced people down there.”

“And they just lost their leaders.” Hannibal said. “There’s decent people too, but they’ve been too afraid to speak up. Now it’s their chance. And it’s your chance. You’re a tough guy; you don’t give in. People need someone like that to get behind. Don’t miss this opportunity.”

Mike stared at him for a moment. “I… I just want to run a hotel.” He said.

“No, what you want is a good life for your son. There’s more to that than making money to buy things for him.” He looked out over the town again. “It won’t be easy. But I don’t think you’re afraid of that. You’ve never had it easy.”

“No.” Mike said, quietly. “No, I haven’t.” He was silent a moment, then smiled at Hannibal. “I’ll try to live up to your expectations, Colonel.”

Over by the car the rest of the team were signing David’s cast. As BA signed David said, “I wanted to say sorry to you all, especially you, BA. If I hadn’t fallen for their stupid trap you wouldn’t have got hurt.”

“Don’t feel bad,” Face said. “I know if I’d got a note like that from a girl when I was fourteen I’d have fallen for it.”

“Face,” Murdock said. “If you got a note like that now you’d fall for it.”

Face bristled and began to protest when David interrupted saying, “I can hear sirens.” A moment later the rest of them could too. They looked down the hill, and then realized they were coming from the other direction, the back road they had come in on.

“Lynch.” Hannibal said. The team scrambled for the car. BA got behind the wheel and started to gun the engine.

“Wait,” Hannibal said, getting back out.

“Hannibal!” Face yelled.

“I didn’t sign your cast.” Hannibal said, to David, who stared at him and mutely handed him a pen. Hannibal scribbled quickly on the cast and gave back the pen, winked at the boy.

“Hannibal!” Now Murdock was yelling. Lynch’s cars were very close now.

“So long, guys. Good luck with everything.”

“Hannibal!” BA’s stentorian yell was probably audible to the rapidly approaching MPs.

Hannibal finally got into the car, closing the door as BA peeled away.

“Next time you pull that stunt we’re leaving you behind!” BA threatened.

The car hurtled off down the hill. Three military police cars pursued it. One pulled up outside the hotel and Lynch jumped out.

“I warned you about the kind of trouble you could get into for associating with those men.” Lynch said. He frowned when the Harpers didn’t look remotely intimidated. The FBI had already warned Lynch to back off their main witnesses in a major investigation, so Lynch’s bluster was so much hot air to Mike. Lynch turned to go back to his car.

“Colonel Lynch, sir.” David called, as Lynch was opening the car door. “Colonel Smith left a message for you.” He held out his arm with the cast on it. Lynch frowned and strode back over to him. He read the words on the cast, then growled in frustration and ran back to his car. He sped away in endless, futile pursuit.

“What did he write?” Mike asked. David showed him the cast.

‘Lynch, close but no cigar. Better luck next time. Smith.’